THE Education Minister, Kristy Williams, has written an open letter to all school staff in Wales.
In the letter shared online and in a video posted from her Twitter channel, the Minister says:
“Thank you for all that you have done, and are continuing to do, in supporting our children and young people through these challenging times.
Thousands of you have worked in hubs supporting our more vulnerable learners and children of critical workers – you have been integral to our national fight against coronavirus.
We have met these challenges together and have shown that the education family in Wales always steps up to ensure that every single young person is supported with their well-being and to learn and grow.
As you will know, schools across Wales are opening up to the majority of pupils from Monday, June 29.
By that date, we will have had a full month of Wales’s ‘Test, Trace and Protect’ programme.
By ensuring we have a check-in, catch-up and prepare period at the end of this term and start blending face-to-face and online learning, we are doing our absolute best by our learners.
I am sure that you will have already heard from your head-teacher about their safe and structured plans for this period.
Many heads – indeed many teachers, staff and parents – have been in touch with me over the last couple of weeks to share their plans and ideas.
I am grateful for the dedication and innovation shown by so many of you.
You will know that we are proposing an additional week to this term.
The reason for this is clear: to ensure we have more contact time with learners in schools.
So much can be achieved in this four-week period. Without it, most learners would face almost six months out of the classroom and we know what the learning loss implications of that could look like, particularly for our more disadvantaged learners.
I have said that our decision making will always be guided by the latest scientific and public health advice.
This advice makes clear the advantages of using time in the summer, and in particular the warm weather, to open schools to more pupils and teachers.
To be blunt, we have to be prepared for the possibility of a second wave of the disease later in the year.
We hope that does not happen, but it is only right that we prepare.
This advice has guided the proposal to offer these check-in, catch up and prepare sessions at the end of this term.
You have my guarantee that I will also extend the autumn half term to be a two week break.
Doing this still gives us a summer break – what scientists have described as a ‘natural fire-break’ between school terms -as we continue to monitor reduced transmission and developments here and across the world.
At these times we have seen a lot of disinformation, but I want to be clear with you.
Our expectation is that a maximum of a third of pupils will be in school at any one time – many schools will see fewer pupils than that.
There will be staggered starts, breaks and finishes.
Local authorities, as the employers and statutory providers of education, already have plans in place regarding safe transport, lunchtimes and supporting head teachers with any employment matters.
I know that many of you will be slightly wary about a return to school. I completely understand.
This has been, and continues to be, a stressful time.
Many of us will know people who have been ill, or have lost someone. I certainly do.
It has been a time of anguish and agony for people right across Wales.
However, I have to take decisions in the best interests of education in Wales.
That means, ultimately, supporting every single child in Wales, no matter their background.
This period from 29 of June is our opportunity to keep true to that.
Once again, thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do.
Together we will keep education safe.”