/No plans for firebreak lockdown in Wales, says Welsh Government

No plans for firebreak lockdown in Wales, says Welsh Government

There are no plans for a firebreak lockdown during an extended school half term in Wales, the Welsh Government has confirmed .

England is reportedly considering the measure, although the Department of Education denied that. See more on that here.

The Welsh Government and school leaders said an extended half term firebreak in Wales is not what they want, or are planning for.

But the National Education Union Cymru confirmed that it has raised the possibility of a firebreak directly with the Welsh Government.

Dilwyn Roberts-Young, General Secretary of the UCAC teaching union, said a firebreak should be considered “if the data about cases and infection rates were to justify it”.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “There are no plans for a firebreak in Wales.

“We continue to closely monitor the public health situation and review the coronavirus regulations every three weeks.

“Coronavirus has not gone away and we would encourage everyone to continue to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, including taking up the offer of a vaccine if they have not had one yet.”

Pupils happy to return to Williamstown Primary School in the Rhondda Valleys at the end of the last lockdown
(Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders said learners had missed enough and extending half term for a firebreak would only be countenanced if vital, or to prevent any further risk of school closure.

“It’s not something we have looked at,” she said.

“The message is that we want children in school. There has been enough disruption.

“However, if it’s a mitigation that prevents longer term efforts to stay in school that could be useful, but only in a worst case scenario if it stopped transmission. But we would rather that did not happen.”

Dilwyn Roberts-Young, General Secretary of the UCAC teaching union, said: “Although everybody is keen to avoid any further disruption to face-to-face education, of course the judicious use of firebreaks is one of the possible measures that could be implemented – if the data about cases and infection rates were to justify it.

“These matters will continue to be discussed regularly between Welsh Government, local government and the education workforce unions, with the intention of providing continued education in the safest possible circumstances.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union said his members also want schools open, and if a firebreak keeps them open it should be implemented .

“Our position remains that schools need to be open whenever possible.

“However, if there are mitigations that can be put in place that will help achieve that goal they need to be considered, including the possibility of a half term firebreak subject to the scientific evidence indicating that such action would result in a favourable outcome.

“Whilst I can confirm that the possibility of a firebreak has been raised directly with Welsh Government, there has been no consultation on that issue as yet though that position could change.

“It is imperative that whatever decision is made is in the best interests of the school population and workforce with health and safety uppermost in those considerations.”

Laura Doel, director of the National Association of Headteachers Cymru said: “We expect the Welsh Government to be considering all mitigation measures, including firebreaks to keep schools as safe as possible.

“If there is medical and scientific evidence that supports the need for a firebreak, then we must do all we can to lessen the impact on education when learners have already lost so much time in the classroom.”

And she said measures, such as grouping learners and staggered start times, should have remained as they worked and had little or no impact on the delivery of education.

Responding to a report in The i, there is a plan for restrictions in England during the school half-term, amid fears the NHS will come under increasing pressure as winter nears, the Department of Education tweeted: “It is not true that the Government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half term.”

A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the newspaper the UK is about to enter “an extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations, and that concern is growing that the health service faces being overwhelmed.

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