All pupils are set to return to full-time education in September, Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced this afternoon.
The Education Minister said that schools will return to “full capacity” in the 2019/20 academic year.
The new term will start on 1 September, with an expectation that all pupils be “accommodated” by 14 September.
The minister also explained that children will only be expected to practice limited social distancing, although adults at the school will still be expected to carry out full social distancing.
“Schools will return to full capacity with only limited social distancing within contact groups,” said Ms Williams.
“At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children.
“Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable.”
“Children don’t seem to transmit the disease to one another”
When speaking at the daily coronavirus update, Ms Williams said that while it would be disingenuous to say that the reopening of schools was risk free, she explained that the risk would be minimised.
“Children, especially younger children, don’t seem to transmit the disease to one another, or to on to adults,” she said,
“So [parents] can have confidence that they’re sending their children into environments that will be safe and secure.
“We now have a significant period of experience of how we can operate our schools in a safe and secure way, remembering that throughout this pandemic over 500 schools have been open to support critical workers and vulnerable children, and we have managed that safely.
“Schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures. Social distancing for adults should remain in line with the regulations and guidance.”
No fines if parents choose not to send their children back
The Education Minister also explained that if parents did not want to send their children to school, they would not be fined.
“We want all children to be back in September, but I recognise that there may still be lingering concerns,” Ms Williams continued.
“So initially we will not be imposing fines on parents who choose not to send their children back.
“But we will be expecting schools to reach out to those parents […] to discuss with parents now any concerns that they may have.”
The minister added that the no-fining policy is subject to change.
“We will keep this policy under review and at some stage we may indeed return to the situation as it was pre-Covid, where fines will be issued to parents who keep children at home without good reason,” she said.