People across Wales react to news of schools reopening

Parents, pupils, teachers and unions have been reacting to news that all schools in Wales will reopen on June 29th.

The plans were outlined today by the Welsh education minister.

Kirsty Williams said a four-week term, ending on July 27th, would give pupils, staff and parents time to prepare for a "new normal" when the next academic year begins in September.

A phased approach will see staggered starts, lessons, and breaks for different year groups, with a third of pupils at most in school at any time.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said pupils returning to school is the 'best practical option'. Credit: Welsh Government

The announcement has gone down badly with most teaching unions, with one going so far as to say lives are at risk.

In a statement, teachers' union NASUWT said: "The Minister has admitted that this is for a ‘check in’ and ‘catch up’, so there is clearly no educational purpose behind this decision. These are not good enough reasons for risking lives."

NEU Cymru, the largest education union in Wales, also said the move "does not sit well" with members.

David Evans from the National Education Union said the announcement was, "completely against" what had been discussed with the Welsh Government, and that to allow schools to reopen even on a staggered basis was, "astounding in reality."

But the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru said it supports the decision.

"It is a sensible approach, which balances the educational priority of bringing children back into the classroom as soon as possible, with the public health priority of ensuring this is done in a manner that is as safe as possible," it said.

The head of Chepstow School said their timetable will need a complete overwrite before reopening.

One headteacher told ITV News the reopening will require a "complete overwrite" of the school's timetable.

Matthew Sims, head of Chepstow School, said classrooms and corridors have already been altered to comply with social distancing.

"We'd have to stagger the entrance, our lessons, breaktimes, lunchtimes and staffing," he said.

"And clearly there's a big commitment from staff - we'd have to stagger their timetable."

Parents across Wales have been divided by the news, with some welcoming it and others vowing to keep their children at home until at least September.

Nona Gruffudd-Evans, from Cardiff, told ITV News: "I was really happy for [my daughter] Greta. She's been desperate to go back to school - not just for her education, but to see friends."

Greta, a Year 12 student, added: "I was actually really hoping for the news we'd go back. I've really missed my friends, but I've mostly really missed my learning."

Elsewhere, many young pupils said they were excited about seeing their friends and teachers again.

Students like Greta Evans (far left) say they have missed learning in a school environment.

But other parents will be keeping their children at home for the remainder of this school year.

Rhian Cecil-Lewis, from Talbot Green, told ITV News she wouldn't consider allowing her children India and Dexter back to school "until at least September".

"Even in September I'd still have to consider what positive [coronavirus] tests are in the area," she added.

Today the education minister said waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling for pupils.

Ms Williams said: "That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people."

She said the return plan was the "best practical option" and met the five principles she previously said would have to be met before a return could be considered.

Allowing pupils to return to the classroom was also the best way to meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, she added.

Ms Williams confirmed that parents will not be fined if they opt to keep their children at home for the remainder of the school year, saying: "We will respect parents' decisions."

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