Primary schools in multiple Welsh council areas to shut early

Numerous Welsh councils have taken the decision to close their primary schools early ahead of Christmas just hours after it was announced that all secondary schools and colleges in Wales will shut for face-to-face teaching on Monday.

All primaries in Cardiff, Ceredigion, Swansea, and the Vale of Glamorgan will see face-to-face teaching end earlier than planned as part of a “national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus” while schools in Carmarthenshire will also and Pembrokeshire are giving primary and special schools the option of moving to distance learning from December 15.

Cardiff council said its decision to close all primaries early was a reaction to a surge in positive cases across Cardiff. A spokesman said if that trend continued it could see one in six pupils required to isolate.

It means the last face-to-face teaching for primary school pupils in Cardiff will be on Tuesday, December 15.

In Ceredigion primary schools would be providing “distance learning” from December 15 too, the council announced on Thursday. It means no primary school pupils will be on school premises from that date, the council said in a letter issued to all parents and carers.

“Everyone will want to enjoy with families over Christmas and providing distance learning from the 15th onward will give 10 days before Christmas day in the possible event of pupils or families needing to self-isolate,” it added.

Meanwhile a letter to parents of primary school pupils at Ysgol Bryn y Mor in Swansea on Thursday said: “Tomorrow [Friday] will be the children’s last day in school. The decision has been taken out of our hands and we apologise for the late notice. Please ensure children bring a carrier bag to school tomorrow to take their items home.”

It’s understood a letter from the education officer will be sent on Friday with further explanation.

In the Vale of Glamorgan all primaries will also move to remote teaching for December 17 and 18, meaning the last day of face-to-face learning will be December 16.

A Cardiff council spokesman said it was important people didn’t simply use the early closures in order to see family and friends during the run-up to Christmas.

The move is designed to enable students to remain at home in the run-up to Christmas and to try and halt the rise in infection rates, they added.

A Cardiff council spokesman said: “In the past two weeks across Cardiff we have seen positive case numbers rise considerably and with them a rise in the numbers of pupils having to self-isolate as a result.

“In fact 36% of all cases in Cardiff have occurred in the past two weeks. Our predictions show that if numbers continue to rise at the current rate potentially one in six of our pupils will be impacted in terms of having to isolate.”

On Wednesday Cardiff became one of 10 local authority areas with infection rates of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people.

The significant increase in infections has also had an impacted on the number of staff needing to self-isolate, the council spokesman said. After “closely monitoring” the situation it has decided that all primary schools in Cardiff will move to online learning starting on Wednesday, December 16.

School provision for pupils identified in Cardiff identified as vulnerable and needing additional support is expected to continue until Friday, December 18 while schools with inset days planned in the last week of term should continue on that basis, the spokesman added.

They continued: “It is vitally important that parents and families do their utmost to follow national Covid-19 guidelines while children are not in school and take this opportunity to see as few people as possible in the run-up to Christmas.”

In Ceredigion all primary schools will move to distance learning in the middle of next week with children attending in person for the final time on Tuesday, December 15.

Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire councils – which also fall within the Hywel Dda health board area – are not mandating closure but instead allowing all primary and special schools the choice to move to distance learning or remain open from Tuesday, December 15.

“Council leaders are concerned the situation will only get worse in the coming week if no action is taken and have made the decision in the best interest of staff, pupils, and their families,” said a statement issued via Carmarthenshire council.

“The rising number of cases in the community is having a significant effect on staff and pupils having to self-isolate, leading to major staffing issues within schools as well as putting considerable pressure on the Test Trace Protect teams.

“All local authorities are working closely with head teachers and chairs of governors to ensure this has as little impact as possible on children’s learning.

“All primary schools are expected to provide childcare for health and social care workers for those who have no other care options. They must also ensure there is provision in place for our most vulnerable learners.

“Families with children eligible for free school meals will receive payment to cover the days they are learning from home.”

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Carmarthenshire council leader Emlyn Dole said: “We are extremely concerned about how quickly the virus is spreading in our communities and unfortunately this is having a significant impact on our schools.

“We have already seen some schools having to close – not because coronavirus is circulating there but because so many staff are having to self-isolate.

“Our schools have worked hard to provide a safe environment – the problem is not in our schools but in the community where people are mixing with each other causing the virus to spread easily.

“This hasn’t been an easy decision but we want to make sure pupils and staff can enjoy Christmas with their families. I cannot emphasise enough though how important it is that pupils stay at home and carry on with the work set by their teachers and do not mix with other households otherwise all this will be for nothing and the virus will continue to spread exponentially.”

Pembrokeshire council leader David Simpson added it had been “a difficult decision to take but one that we hope parents and carers can understand”. He said: “It is important to emphasise that this is not an extended Christmas holiday.”

WalesOnline – Swansea