Vaughn Gething fires warning over Covid breaker in Wales
Classes for pupils aged 11 and above will now be moved online from Monday as part of an effort to crack down on coronavirus cases before Christmas. And London is being urged to follow suit.
Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams warned it was not “an early Christmas present” for students and urged them to carry on with their education.
Ms Williams said today: “The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.
“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.
“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.
Secondary schools across Wales to close tomorrow
“This will also be important in ensuring that students are at home during this time, learning and staying safe.
“Critically, and this is very important, children should be at home.”
She added: “This is not an early Christmas holiday, please do everything you can to minimise your contact with others.
“The education family in Wales has pulled together so many times this year to make a real difference to the course of this virus and ultimately to save lives and I know we can do the same again.
“Together we will keep Wales safe.”
This comes just weeks after the fire-break in Wales ended but First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned of more restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.
In England, Tory MPs have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow suit amid warnings the capital could go into Tier 3 as early as next week.
Yesterday, schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs schools could reschedule an inset day next Friday to allow “six clear days” before Christmas Eve.
Speaking to a virtual education select committee, Mr Gibb said: “We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day.
“We want there to be a clear six days so that, by the time we reach Christmas Eve, staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues.”
But he added: “We want to make sure that they (school staff) can have a proper break over Christmas.
“We know they’ve been under huge stress.
“I don’t think some of these senior leadership teams of schools have had a break at all since the pandemic began.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the inset day would be a “small concession”.
He told the BBC: “A single day is better than nothing, but it still means that school and college leaders will have to continue contact tracing in the event of positive cases through to Wednesday December 23.
“It also leaves them responsible, at very short notice, for informing families that they will need to self-isolate over the Christmas period.”
Schools up and down the country were forced to close back in March during the first wave of the pandemic.
Many moved classes online while others closed completely and all schools were given the green light to reopen in September.
But teachers’ unions complained it was too early to reopen schools, despite millions of children being out of education for at least four months.
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