Commenting on the return to education settings in Wales in the coming weeks, Wales' Executive members of the National Education Union, Mairead Canavan, Neil Foden and Hannah O'Neill, said:

“NEU Cymru has asked the Education Minister to delay the start of face-to-face learning for the first two weeks of January at least, in order that the scientists have time to assess the situation here in Wales, with regards to Covid-19 and the new variant. We are in a different position than we were at the end of the Autumn term, and believe this is a sensible approach to ensure that we put everyone’s safety and wellbeing first.

“As educators, our members will not be making decisions about returning to the classroom lightly. Whilst we believe that Covid-19 does not have such a big impact on children and young people, we have little evidence on the new variant. We know too, that young people live in families and communities, and it is important that we act now to keep everyone as safe as we can.

"We know WG took the sensible decision before Christmas to notify local authorities they had two weeks flexibility at the start of term for returning to the classroom. But since then, we are in Wales-wide “Alert level 4”. The levels of the new variant in Wales are uncertain, and we believe the scientists need time to assess the situation and make relevant recommendations, before schools and colleges return. The wellbeing and safety of children and young people, their families and communities, as well as staff in education settings, must be the top priority.

"When schools and colleges do go back, we need to see masks being worn inside the classrooms. We also need to prioritise the vaccine for education staff. They are working in close proximity to children and young people, so keeping teachers and support staff safe should be a priority. This year has been challenging for everyone in education, and as we all reflect on what 2021 will bring, safety and wellbeing must remain central to our approach here in Wales.

"We have shared a template Section 44 letter with our members, and advised them they can use it in relation to a return to face-to-face teaching, if they think it is right to do so. We have advised them they should be available to work from home to deliver learning online, and that they should support the hub system to ensure that key worker and vulnerable children can attend in person.”

ENDS

Press contacts:

The National Education Union is an amalgamation of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and National Union of Teachers (NUT), formed on 1 September 2017. Please see the below contact details for assistance:

Contact: Mary van den Heuvel – Wales Policy Officer - National Education Union, Tŷ Sinnott, 18 Neptune Court, Vanguard Way, Cardiff CF24 5PJ.  Mob: 07436 549606.

e-mail: mary.vandenheuvel@neu.org.uk