The First Minister will today confirm alert level four lockdown restrictions will remain in place in Wales for the next three weeks. While the situation in Wales is improving, lockdown restrictions must continue for another three weeks to allow the NHS to recover.
He will also indicate that the youngest learners in primary school could begin returning to school after the February half term, if rates of coronavirus continue to fall.
The Welsh Government will work with schools and education partners on a phased and flexible return to school after 22 February, if the public health situation continues to improve. Rates of coronavirus across Wales have fallen below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since early November. And every day, thousands more people receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – the latest figures show almost 11% of the population have been vaccinated.
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “Welsh Government has stated today that Foundation phase will begin to return to school from 22 February.
“It has been a challenge for families to juggle employment and home-learning, and school leaders want to see nothing more than pupils back in class as soon as it is safe to do so.
“But it is clear that there are still too many unknowns, such as the effectiveness of the vaccine and the pace at which infections are falling, to put the 22 February date firmly in the diary yet.
“Talks have already begun between the Welsh Government and trade unions to make sure that there is a workable plan for lifting the lockdown. This includes reviewing all of the safety measures that schools have been using up to now, to make sure they are still effective.
“The Welsh Government will also have to put effort into reassuring families that it is safe to send their children back to school – there is a confidence test the government must pass to make the return a success.
“It is also important that the teaching workforce is prioritised for vaccinations. This would give confidence as well as providing a better chance that once lockdown measures are lifted, children’s education is less likely to continue to be disrupted by staff absence and illness.”