Secondary school pupils in Wales to return to classrooms before Easter

All secondary school pupils in Wales could be back in classroom after Easter. Credit: PA

Some secondary pupils in Wales could return to schools to "check in" with teachers before the Easter break, the country's education minister has said.

Kirsty Williams said the return would allow years 7, 8 and 9 to meet their teachers, with a focus on "support for wellbeing" and to prepare for full return after Easter, but would not be a full return to face-to-face teaching.

The plan, subject to the Welsh Government's next three-week review, would be in addition to the return to school for older primary pupils and older learners taking exams, including years 11 and 13 from March 15.

Foundation phase children in Wales aged between three and seven have been back in classrooms since February 22.

On Wednesday, Ms Williams said: "Today, I am able to confirm our intentions to go even further, even earlier, and give schools the opportunity to welcome back learners in years 7, 8 and 9 before the Easter break.

"This would be to give learners the opportunity to check in with teachers, with a focus on support for wellbeing, and readiness for a full return to school after Easter.

"I want to make clear now that this will not be a full return to school for years 7, 8 and 9 before Easter.

"The focus before Easter will be on learners who are undertaking qualifications, especially those in Years 11 and 13, and those studying practical vocational qualifications."

Ms Williams said full guidance for schools will be published from 9am on Wednesday to help with planning

All learners are expected to return to face-to-face teaching in the second week of April following the Easter break, though secondary pupils are only expected to be in school on a part-time basis.

A teachers union has hit back at the decision to bring forward the return to classrooms saying the Welsh Government has acted before "the hard data exist to support it."

NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said: "Ee are surprised by the proposed acceleration before the hard data exists to support it. We have not had a full return of foundation phase across Wales yet and what we don’t want is to see a is schools having to close again because we have brought in too many learners too quickly. The public will not forgive a third lock down."

Wales children commissioner has welcomed the wellbeing check-in for pupils.

Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said: “Young people spoke in their thousands through our survey about the strains of lockdown. I am pleased that many more pupils will have an opportunity to return for some face-to-face time at school before the Easter break and that young people’s calls to have more time with their teachers and peers have been heeded by the Welsh Government.

"I warmly welcome the emphasis on wellbeing and following today’s announcement secondary schools will be able to create tailor-made opportunities, fit for their pupils and wider school community.

“This would not have been possible without the huge sacrifices we’ve all made, most importantly those made by young people across Wales, to reduce transmission rates.”