Speculation on school return date “unhelpful”, says union
News | Richard Gurner | Published: 09:16, Monday May 4th, 2020.
Last updated: 09:16, Monday May 4th, 2020
Speculation over when children can return to school has been branded “unhelpful” by a teachers’ union.
The criticism from NAHT Cymru follows comments from First Minister Mark Drakeford, who seemed to suggest that pupils could return as early as June when he was interviewed on the Andrew Marr show.
Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said: “The First Minister’s reference to June when talking about schools reopening was confusing and unhelpful. There is constant speculation of when schools may reopen and we have been clear that any date set for wider access to schools must be based on robust scientific evidence and medical advice.”
Professor Drakeford had mentioned June as an example date for pupils to return – but within the context that three weeks would be needed for preparations.
He later tweeted a clarification and posted: “The next phase for schools will only start when it’s safe to do so. One of our key principles for that decision is sufficient time for schools and parents to plan ahead.”
The Welsh Government has said a “phased” approach will be taken to reopen schools.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams has set out five guiding principles for such a return.
The five principles for returning to school
The safety and mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of students and staff
Continuing contribution to the national effort and strategy to fight the spread of Covid-19
Having the confidence of parents, staff and students – based on evidence and information – so that they can plan ahead
Ability to prioritise learners at key points, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds
Consistency with the Welsh Government’s framework for decision making, to have guidance in place to support measures such as distancing, managing attendance and wider protective actions.
Ms Williams said: “It is vital that parents, staff and students have confidence in returning to school. We will only enter the next phase when the evidence and advice suggests that it is the right thing to do.
“I will communicate any decision to change the operation of schools well in advance of any required action, allowing school staff, pupil and parents to plan ahead.
“Schools will not immediately return to operating at full capacity. It will be a phased approach and I do not expect schools will suddenly open for all pupils, from all years, all week.”
To add to the confusion, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also floated the idea of schools returning in June, which was reported by the national press.
This would only be applicable in England, as responsibility for education in Wales lies with the Welsh Government.