Covid: Welsh Government yet to decide whether schools will reopen in January

Some schools in Wales are already closing ahead of the end of term. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government is still assessing whether schools will reopen in January after the Christmas holidays.

Health minister Eluned Morgan confirmed the government has not yet made a decision as Wales prepares itself for a wave of Omicron coronavirus cases over the festive period. 

Schools in Denbighshire and Anglesey have already confirmed classes will move online from next week in a bid to curb transmission in the lead up to the holidays.

Speaking at the Welsh Government’s coronavirus press briefing, Ms Morgan said: “All of these issues will be assessed and reviewed, and we are already discussing what are the greatest risks and what we can control as a government.

“We have got to bring the public with us… that is why these are very tough calls and we will make those assessments as the situation changes and we see those rates increase.”

On Tuesday, Flintshire council also announced it was recommending schools introduce blended learning from Monday (December 20).

The council said coronavirus infection rates are impacting on many schools and rapidly increasing workforce absence.

Some headteachers in the county have reported difficulty in maintaining adequate staffing levels. 

Claire Homard, the council’s chief officer for education and youth, said: “This decision – which has the backing of headteachers – will allow staff to use a blended approach to deliver education, whilst also providing headteachers with the discretion to invite groups of learners to attend school for face-to-face learning where required particularly in examination year groups in secondary schools. 

The council’s leader, Ian Roberts, added: “Flintshire County Council will do what we believe is necessary to safeguard our children, our staff and our communities. 

“Coronavirus cases have increased considerably and, as a result, staff absence in schools has increased. This does not just include teachers but a wide range of support staff too. 

“Our young people will continue their education and will switch to blended learning for the last few days of term. We share the concerns of the government around the Omicron variant and are aware that many parents and staff are extremely worried. We must consider people’s wellbeing after a very difficult year.

“Our education team continues to work closely with headteachers and all staff in schools and I would like to thank our school staff, governing bodies and parents for their continued work and care during a very difficult time.”

"Shutting schools should be a very last resort"

School closures during the pandemic have been one of the most controversial policy areas.

Concerns about child welfare and missed classroom time have at times come into conflict with concerns about the safety of staff and pupils in schools.

The Welsh Conservatives have called on the Welsh Government to commit to keeping schools open.

The party's shadow minister for education, Laura Anne Jones, said: “The current situation is highly concerning for parents up and down Wales who have now had their childcare plans for January thrown into disarray.

“Shutting schools should be a very last resort for any government, which is why the Welsh Conservatives recent 6-point Covid plan called for a commitment to keep schools open.

“Our children can ill afford to lose more time in the classroom; this will only damage their life chances further down the line if we see more disruption now. 

“I call on the Labour Government to commit to keeping learners in school.”