How schools across Wales are reopening for the first time in months

  • Video report by ITV Wales Reporter Kate Lewis

Schools and colleges across Wales are continuing to reopen, with many pupils and staff returning to the classroom for the first time since March.

Schools in England have also started to welcome back pupils, with students in Scotland and Northern Ireland having returned last month.

It comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wales reaches 18,155, with a further 50 cases reported on Thursday.

It also follows the closure of a number of pubs in Maesteg, near Bridgend, after fears that people who have returned on a flight from Zante visited them.

All passengers returning to Wales from Zante have been told they must self-isolate for the next 14 days, after a number of Covid-19 cases were detected on a Tui flight from Zante to Cardiff on 25 August.

So with the number of cases continuing to rise in Wales, how are schools ensuring pupils and staff can return safely?

Pupils and staff are adjusting to adaptations to the classroom, including the removal of desks and downsizing of classes. Credit: ITV Wales
  • What are schools doing to keep pupils and staff safe?

Many schools have stripped back classrooms by removing soft furnishings and rearranging desks, and have installed hand sanitising stations around buildings ahead of children returning.

Rhôs-on-Sea primary school Ysgol Llandrillo-yn-Rhos opened for a short period prior to the summer holidays for key worker children. Staff said this helped them prepare for the full reopening.

Headteacher Gaynor Highcock said: "We decided that today and tomorrow we would just take in half of the class at a time, and that would give us time to really establish what was going to be happening with the children - what the new normal looked like.

"It has been a logistical nightmare at times. We've had to have the children coming in at different times, going home at different times, play times have all got to be separate, lunch times have had to be extended."

Only half of classes at Ysgol Llandrillo-yn-Rhos returned to school on Friday. Credit: ITV Wales

Nearly 500 children attend the primary school across two different sites.

Ms Highcock said she is hopeful it will be a safe environment providing it follows government guidance.

"We've had several meetings where we've gone over what the expectations are, what Track and Trace will be looking for if there is an outbreak in the school.

"Our teachers are very aware of the distance they've got to keep, of how they've got to behave, and I think if we can manage it hopefully we'll be fine."

Pupils at Y Pant Comprehensive School were required to have their temperature checked as they entered the building. Credit: ITV Wales

Children at Y Pant Comprehensive School in Pontyclun were required to have their temperature checked and wear masks as they reentered the building for the first time in months.

The school is also changing its approach to more practical subjects such as design technology, drama and music, with pupils remaining at their desks.

Headteacher Bev Cheetham said she was "excited" to welcome back pupils, but said there was some big challenges ahead.

"We've been asked to run the curriculum as much as possible but also to maintain social distancing and to try and ensure that everybody is kept in bubbles.

"That's really hard because we're a large comprehensive school with 1,400 pupils, and we have lots of specialist teaching rooms, so to manage that has been really tricky."

  • How do schoolchildren feel about going back?

For many pupils returning to school is a welcome chance to see their friends again. But it has been a nervewracking time for children moving from primary to secondary school.

Year seven pupil Scott Anderson was nervous about the vast size of his new school, somewhat overshadowing concerns around coronavirus.

He said: "I'm really excited to meet all my new friends and teachers but I'm a bit nervous because the school is really big and we've got to find our way around it.

"I don't really mind wearing a mask, I'd prefer not to, but as long as it keeps everybody safe I'll do it."

Year six pupils Finn and Osian have returned for their final year at primary school. Credit: ITV Wales

Ysgol Llandrillo-yn-Rhos year six pupil Finn said he felt confident about returning to school.

He said: "We've got the one-way system and hand sanitisers all round the school, and you're only in a bubble with your own class so you only mix with your own class."

But his classmate, Osian, said he has been concerned about catching the virus.

"With all this going on I felt quite concerned just in case I got it and I passed it round to my family, my friends and anyone in the school.

"But I think if we stick to the rules we'll all be safe. The school is definitely helping to make us safe."

The pair said while they understood the importance of the safety measures, they were having to adjust to big changes to their learning.

"It's a bit different because we can't really play with the other classes, or we have to stay two metres from our teachers," Osian said.

Despite this, he added: "I'm liking it more than being home-schooled. It's very fun seeing my friends in person rather than just through video."