Schools could close up to one week early for Christmas holidays

Schools could close early to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading (Picture: Reuters)

Schools in Wales could close early for Christmas to reduce the risk of the virus spreading and prevent children from isolating over the holidays.

Council leaders are reportedly considering ending the school term earlier than the planned date of December 18. Options are said to vary between shutting down on December 11, or ending the term just two or three days earlier.

The Welsh Government and Welsh Local Government Association are now holding talks with headteachers about moving classes online for the last weeks of term, Wales Online reports. This is despite First Minister Mark Drakeford wanting schools to stay open.

Last week he said closing schools early was not the government’s intention. He went on: ‘We remain in discussion with local education authorities and the teaching unions.

‘We have put a priority, throughout this pandemic, on the education of our children. They missed out earlier in the year.

‘The implications of coronavirus is still very real in schools and the community and we will do everything we can to keep our schools working until Christmas. It is important for our children not to miss out further.’

Most schools are due to break up on December 18 (Picture: Reuters)
Councils are having talks with the government about when to close down (Picture: Reuters)

In Carmarthenshire, the council say they have been in ‘regular dialogue with the Welsh Government’ will make their decisions about the end of term based on ‘all information available’.

Similarly, Ceredigion, Conwy, Caerphilly and Bridgend councils say they are also awaiting further guidance from the government before they confirm their plans.

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Merthyr Council confirmed they have been meeting with the Welsh Local Government Association, while Cardiff Council say they will follow any decision taken by the government.

Both Powys County Council and Pembrokeshire Council have no plans to close their schools early, while Andrew Morgan, leader of Rhondda Cyon Taf Council, noted he was in favour ending term two of three days before the current planned date.

The UCAC teaching union previously recommended schools close on December 11, and move their classes online for the last week of term. This is due to the risk of coronavirus cases forcing whole schools into self-isolation for the festive period.

Classes could continue at home (Picture: Reuters)

A spokesperson for the Welsh government said discussions with local authorities and unions are still on-going, adding that their priority is ‘ensuring all children and young people’s education continues with as little disruption as possible’.

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It comes as some councils in Greater Manchester were forced to U-turn on plans to close schools early for the holidays.

The leaders of Focus Trust, who work with 15 primary academies, planned to close schools a week earlier than usual this year. The Department for Education has since asked the trust to review the decision, arguing that it ‘remains a national priority’ to keep schools open.

Stockport Council has also given schools permission to close two days earlier than planned, Manchester Evening News reported. The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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