Welsh Government must confirm when our schools are going to close

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister for Education Sian Gwenllian AM has called for the Welsh Government to “urgently” clarify when schools will close in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Shadow Education Minister said this was “an incredibly concerning time for parents, teachers, and pupils” and called for “confirmation” so that parents and teachers could be “reassured” and could plan ahead.

Ms Gwenllian said that teachers and teaching assistants – alongside cleaners and catering staff, were currently working on the “frontline” in the fight against the Coronavirus and said they should all be “prioritised for testing”. Ms Gwenllian added that whilst schools remained officially open, many of them would have to “go against many of the public guidelines” in order to continue their work.

The shadow minister added that “clarity and additional guidance” ought to be given in regards to the closure of special schools because pupils attending those schools” would be “particularly vulnerable and at risk”.

Ms Gwenllian added that the Welsh Government should provide “statutory guidance” on school absenteeism and said parents should not be punished for not sending their children to school because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

She added that when schools do close, clarity should be given to safeguard pupils eligible for free school meals and that there should be “skeleton staff provision” in place for children of key NHS and public sector staff “so they can continue working”.

She said the Welsh Government should also confirm the status of summer examinations and asked the Education Minister to outline what arrangements were in place to evaluate pupils’ work and objective grades.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education Sian Gwenllian said,

“This is an incredibly concerning time for parents, teachers, and pupils. We know that schools will have to close to flatten the curve and suppress the epidemic, but it currently completely unclear as to when the government will close our schools.

“The Welsh Government and the Education Minister must provide urgent confirmation of when schools are going to close so parents and teachers can be reassured and plan ahead.

“Schools are larger gatherings than any one place people are advised not to go and teachers, teaching assistants, cleaners and catering staff in schools are currently on the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus. Whilst schools remain open, they must be prioritised for testing because many of them will still be going to work by public transport, and will have to go against many of the public guidelines in order to continue to learning and providing crucial service and care for our children.

“Furthermore, we need clarity and additional guidance in regards to the closure of special schools because children attending those schools will be particularly vulnerable and at considerable risk of the virus.

“When schools close, we need clarity that safeguards pupils eligible for free school meals and skeleton staff provision for children of key NHS and public sector staff so that they can continue working.  

“The Welsh Government must also provide statutory guidance on school absenteeism. Parents should not be punished for not sending their children to school during this critical time.

“We are yet to hear from the Education Minister what the status of the examinations are in the summer. It's already a worrying time for pupils with exams looming and what arrangements are in place to evaluate pupils' work and whether the objective grade will count.

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