Allowing students in Wales to go home for Christmas is a 'priority', says Education Minister

It will be a priority for students to be allowed to go home for Christmas, Kirsty Williams has said Credit: PA

Allowing students from Welsh universities to go home for Christmas is a "priority", Wales' Education Minister has said.

Kirsty Williams MS said she will be working with universities to ensure this can happen, whilst acknowledging that it would involve many students crossing counties and countries.

"I have already discussed the issue with my counterparts across the UK to make sure we can support you when the time comes", Ms Williams said at the Welsh Government's coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.

It comes after First Minister Mark Drakeford previously said the Welsh Government would "contemplate" asking students to stay on campus over Christmas.

"It is true as people move across the United Kingdom, then that increases the risk of the virus moving with them", Mr Drakeford told ITV's Good Morning Britain last week.

There has been concern that students returning to their families over Christmas could increase the spread of coronavirus. Credit: PA

The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock also declined to rule out asking students in England to stay on campus over Christmas, after government scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport said the measure may be needed to stop the virus spreading to older relatives.

But on Wednesday, Kirsty Williams said the Welsh Government is "determined" to do what it can to allow students to return to their families.

She said that could involve asking students to self-isolate before returning.

She added: "As a mother who sent her own daughter to university for her first year on Sunday, believe me there is nothing that I want more than to ensure that students can be at home with their families for Christmas."

Universities across the UK have been grappling with coronavirus outbreaks since students began returning to campuses earlier this month.

An outbreak of 32 cases at Swansea University has been linked to a house party attended by one infected person.

While in Scotland, university students have been banned from going to pubs in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

Asked if similar restrictions could be imposed on students in Wales, Ms Williams said she did not believe it would be fair.

She added: "I know that the vast majority of students, just like the vast majority of the Welsh population, they want to abide by the rules. They appreciate being given the opportunity to be back on campus, they want to make that successful, and they want to play their part in keeping not only themselves safe but their communities safe.

"So what we're asking from students is please, follow the rules, just as any ordinary citizen of Wales."