Education Minister asks everyone – whether they have children or not – to help keep schools open
“If we want to keep schools open, we’ve all got a role to play”, is the message to members of the public from Wales’ Education Minister.
Last week saw primary and secondary school students across Wales return to full-time education for the first time since since the start of the pandemic. Colleges and universities have also started to return to normal activity.
Speaking to Wrexham.com, Education Minister Kirsty Williams broadened out her appeal for cooperation during the pandemic away from just parents, but society in general, saying: “If we want to keep schools open we’ve all got a role to play by following the rules, whether we have children or not.”
Asked whether she’s confident that people will continue to comply with the guidelines to help prevent a return to the situation in March and April, the Minister said: “People have been very anxious to see schools re-open because parents understand how important it is for their children to be back learning with their teachers.
“We all have to do the right thing and it is by doing the right thing that we will keep ourselves safe, we will keep our relatives and our loved ones safe and we will create communities that are safe and schools and colleges that are open.
“I would just appeal to people, if you want just children to be back in school, lots of lots and lots of parents have been really looking forward to this day when schools are open, then we’ve all got a part to play.
“I would particularly say for instance to parents dropping their children off at school, watch out, and don’t fall foul of inadvertently breaking social distancing rules at the school gate at the beginning of the day.
“It’s great to see everybody again isn’t it, being back out there and seeing everybody. By all means have a chat but do it two meters apart, because it can be so easy sometimes to to forget or to be carried away in the moment and you’re not quite as alert as you need to be. That’s potentially a real challenge.
“So if you’re at the school gate please remember to keep your distance from other parents and carers.
Although the return to school in Wales has broadly been a success, the Minister acknowledged that there have been a number of incidents where staff and students have tested positive for coronavirus.
In Wrexham the opening of St Christopher’s School was pushed back 48 hours after a member of staff tested positive and Coleg Cambria confirmed that there had been a number of positive tests amongst students.
None of the cases locally have been linked to any outbreak at the schools or colleges themselves.
“We’ve had obviously some issues in some schools and that’s very much reflective of what’s going on with the virus in the community,” explained Ms Williams.
“I think it’s really important to recognise that the cases that we have seen in school are cases where the virus has been contracted in the community.
“The cases that we’re seeing associated with school it’s not an issue of transfer within the school.
“People have unfortunately caught the virus whilst they’ve been out and about living their lives. It is now as we return to school perhaps where we know people are being very, very mindful to watch out for symptoms and we’re seeing some of that.
“We’ve managed to get the vast majority of children back to school safely and securely and that’s a testament to very much the hard work that has been put into place by individual head teachers and their colleagues and individual schools.”
The Minister also noted that it was “important that institutions are as transparent as they possibly can be with parents, their students, and the wider community” where there have been positive cases in the school.
Last week saw Wales impose its first local lockdown in Caerphilly as cases in Wales – particularly in the south – started to rise. Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff are also being monitored after an increase in positive coronavirus cases.
New restrictions on mask wearing in shops and a limit on the number of people who can meet indoors are also coming into force across Wales from today in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus further.
Asked how schools and colleges could remain open if there is a second wave, Ms Williams said it remained a priority to not see closures on the same scale as earlier this year.
She said: “In the first local lockdown that we’ve had to experience in Wales, despite restrictions being placed in other aspects of people’s lives, so we’re all working really hard to make sure that schools and colleges remain open because we know that further disruption to children’s education will harm them in the short term and the long term.
“Keeping education open is a priority for this government. It’s a priority for me as the minister and shared priority with the health minister and the first minister.
“We’ve had to take some very difficult decisions about not unlocking other parts of lockdown just so that we can ensure that we’ve got that headroom to get our schools open.
“In the future it may mean some tough decisions. But we are determined to take all steps necessary to limit the disruption on our children’s education.
“We’ve already seen that they’ve already had so much of their education disrupted in this calendar year and we want to minimise that as much as possible.”
For people looking for the official guidance, along with Q&As around education and coronavirus the dedicated Welsh Government website can be found on gov.wales/education-coronavirus
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