More details given on what schools in Wales could look like in September

Children socially distancing in class.
Children will return to schools in September but classrooms will look different. Credit: PA

More guidance has been published for schools in Wales, giving more detail on what students and staff can expect when they return in September.

In early June, Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced that schools would be returning later that month after being closed since March due to the coronavirus outbreak. Students have since returned in a phased and staggered approach to "catch up and prepare" ahead of the summer holidays.

The decision to reopen was criticised by teachers and unions alike, with the NASUWT saying there was no education purpose for a return.

Last week, the minister announced all learners would be able to return for the new school year in September prompting calls from teachers and unions for more clarity over the safety of students and staff.

Now the Welsh Government has released documents which provides further details on what to expect.

The school term will start on September 1, with a two-week period where schools can plan and organise for a full return of students on September 14 - and it will be compulsory for pupils to attend.

The Welsh Government has also said schools should look at minimising the number of contacts that children have during the day, which could mean smaller classes and fixed desks with appropriate social distancing.

Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said that all decisions had been made on "medical and scientific advice".

She added, “This updated guidance reflects the latest medical and scientific advice, striking a balance between structured national guidance and local flexibility.

“We have learned this year that we must be prepared for a range of scenarios. This guidance sets out what learning priorities should remain constant, regardless of where learning takes place.

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

“It will support our schools and education settings in ensuring learners continue to access a broad and balanced curriculum and continue to make progress in their learning."

All desks in schools will also be forward facing following advice from Public Health Wales and staff will continue to maintain social distancing from students.

In the guidance, the government also states that more emphasis must be placed on ensuring the school is kept clean and that separate groups should have different toilets.

The NAHT, a union that looks after headteachers in the country, said the detail was welcomed, but further guidance on things like face coverings are still needed.

"Schools can now begin to put plans in place to welcome all pupils back next term," Laura Doel continued.

"However, we should not underestimate the scale of the logistical challenges this guidance will pose school leaders in particular. We should make no mistake, this is not a return to ‘business as usual’ and there is a great deal of work that now needs to be done.

“It is essential that Welsh government continue to engage with us on these and other matters too so that schools and parents alike have full confidence in the government’s plan for a full return in September."