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Commenting on the First Minister’s confirmation that schools in Wales will start to open more widely for pupils in some year groups from 22 February, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“We all want to see more pupils return to schools as soon as it is safe to do so and we understand the Welsh Government’s rationale for beginning with the youngest pupils and some older pupils undertaking vocational courses.

“In beginning the process of reopening schools more widely a cautious approach which prioritises the health and safety of pupils and school staff must be the focus. There must not be any rush to return further groups of pupils to schools while case numbers remain high and situation remains so precarious.

“The progress made in tackling the transmission of Covid within our communities must not be undermined by a failure to take all necessary steps to make schools covid safe and to minimise the risks.

“While we welcome the announcement of more funding to support covid safety in schools, along with the introduction of routine testing for the education workforce, current measures do not go far enough.

“We have presented the Welsh Government with a list of mitigations that we believe should be in place in every school. Such measures include the use of rotas to better support social distancing, enhanced use of face coverings within schools and greater protection for vulnerable staff.

“We are also continuing to call for those education workers that will be undertaking face to face teaching from 22 February to be given priority access to vaccinations.

“The Welsh Government should adopt what we consider to be sensible and proportionate mitigations which will help achieve the shared aim of getting pupils back into the classroom in the greatest safety.”
 
Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official Wales said:

“All of the education unions in Wales have put together a list of reasonable requests for mitigations that we would want to see in place to make schools safe, given the new variant of Covid-19.

“The Ministers statement, whilst welcome, does not go far enough. We look forward to more meetings next week so that we can ensure that the updated operational guidance for schools properly reflects the concerns of the profession.”

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