Welsh schools could start to reopen in phases next month ahead of other UK nations as the rate of Covid transmissions continues to fall.
The Welsh government hopes to “take advantage” of its lower Covid infection rate to get students into schools beginning with those doing vocational courses and primary school pupils. There are “grounds for optimism” that the Welsh lockdown which began before Christmas could be eased.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Next week there will be intense discussions with our local education authorities and unions to find a way of returning as many children as we can as safely as we can after half-term.”
The Welsh leader said he will take a different approach to the other four-nations as Wales` weekly- infection rate was 175 for every 100,00 people – compared with 650 before Christmas.
Coronavirus cases are steadily falling thanks to your efforts. And every vaccine delivered is a small victory against the virus.
But rates are still too high. Our NHS remains under significant pressure. We need to keep going a little longer to bring the virus under control.
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) January 29, 2021
“In England a couple of days ago the average was 350, and our 170 figure is falling every day, so you can see the context is very different,” he added. “We want to take advantage of that. Our children and young people have had a torrid time over the last 12 months, they are missing out on education every week.”
The Welsh government will consider the incidence rate, test positivity rate, and the number of people in hospitals and in critical care before a decision is made on a “phased and fixed” return to classrooms.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Johnson announced that he hoped pupils in England would return to classrooms on 8 March.