West Wales Schools back for Three or Four Weeks?
Not all schools across West Wales will return for the four-week extended Summer Term that the Welsh Government wanted, following their closure in March due to Coronavirus outbreak.
On the 3rd June 2020 Kirsty Williams the Welsh Government Education Minister announced that all schools in Wales would be reopening to pupils of all year groups from Monday 29th June and that she was “proposing to extend the term by one week to end on the 27th July with an extra week break at the Autumn half term”
Although this was what Kirsty Williams had hoped for it hasn’t quite gone to plan as not all schools will be reopening for four weeks and some schools in Wales are not actually reopening at all.
So, what about here in West Wales? What Schools are reopening and for How long? Let’s help explain what’s going on with our schools
Schools in West Wales Reopening for 3 weeks
If your child’s school is in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea then their school will reopen on 29th June 2020 and will stick to the original School Term Dates and only open for 3 weeks, with the last day of term being 17th July 2020
Schools in West Wales Reopening for 4 weeks
If your child’s school is in Pembrokeshire then their school will reopen on 29th June 2020 and will be adopting the proposed extended 4 week Summer Term, with the last day of term now being 24th July 2020.
Out of all the 22 local councils in Wales,only 3 have decided to adopt the 4 weeks extend term and they are Pembrokeshire, Conwy and Powys.
There is still some uncertainty for pupils whose schools are in Rhondda Cynon Taf area as a decision is still to be made on how long they are going back for.
Also due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak in North Wales meat factories all schools in Anglesey will not be going back on Monday 29th June, however the council has said if they do go back they would only be going back for a 3 week term.
Why Schools Welsh Government Wanted a 4 week Term
Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Health Minister explained her rational behind opening at the end of June rather than waiting until the new term in September as: –
- Taking advantage of the warmer weather
- Taking advantage of sunlight
- An increased opportunity for outdoors learning
- Having a better ability to ventilate school buildings
She also added that by adding an extra week to the Summer Term will allow schools to take advantage of these benefits and maximise the amount of face to face time the pupils will receive before the long Summer break, as there is a real worry that there is a potential of schools closing again in the Autumn term.
With Dr Atherton, the Chief Medical Officer of Wales expressing his worry about the coming winter months and how this could affect the virus rates saying “My anxiety is that we face resurgence of viral transmission. I said before that the virus doesn’t like sunshine”
Why have some Councils decided to Only Return for Three Weeks?
Its all down to contracts. As much as the Welsh Government would like and suggest that something happens, ultimately, they are not the employer.
It is the local councils that are the employer of all teachers, teacher assistances and kitchen staff, cleaners and facilities staff. It is also the local councils that has to implement changes.
It was only ever a request from the Welsh Government and they knew it was going to be down to each council to see if this could be achieved.
Contractually no staff were obligated to work an extra week and unions have reiterated that staff should not be required to work an extra week as their contracts only cover standard term times.
Safety has also been questioned as council will have to employ many more cleaners and help schools implement many changes to classrooms and school grounds.
Whilst the Welsh Government has failed to get the backing of all trade unions in order for some schools to open for the planned fourth week. We do know from communications from our own children’s schools that some teachers and head teachers are disappointed as a lot of work has gone into setting up the schools for pupils to return.
What’s the Difference of a Week
Many parents have been wondering if their child’s will be at a disadvantage if their school is in an area where they are going back for 3 weeks rather than 4 week – The answer to which is No
The Welsh Government has made it very clear that the purpose of the schools reopening is to
Check In – Catch Up – Prepare
Which means: –
Check In – Essentially their priority is to Welfare Check the kids. The Coronavirus Lockdown has been challenging and worrying for many and Kirsty Williams has acknowledged that there are going to be many traumatised children after this, so this four-week term can allow schools to assess children’s wellbeing and needs
Catch Up – Basically after so much time off school, schools will be using this four week term to assess education levels of children, catch up on any work that had been set by the school and for whatever reason hasn’t been done and help schools evaluate if they need any additional resources moving forward.
Prepare – This four-week term will be used as a test on operations. Kirsty Williams said “The last weeks of term will be used to make sure that pupils, staff and parents are prepared mentally, emotionally and practically for what the new normal will be like in September” It’s going to give schools time to work out if they need to do things differently and give them a chance to build confidence with families.
So, with these objectives and reduced hours at school, it may be unlikely that schools will be able to teach additional content to what will be given online anyway and additionally it’s been made clear by schools that No Child will be at a disadvantage even if their family decide to not send their children back at all on 29th June
Really the only difference is going to be in October Half Term this year, as the schools that have stayed on in July for the 4th week will take an extra week holiday in October Half Term, so total of two week break rather than one.
For more information about Kirsty Williams announcement on 3rd of June you can read it in our Dates Schools and Colleges in Wales to Reopen after Coronavirus Lockdown Article