PARENTS in Monmouthshire have been reacting to the news that Wales’ schools will remain closed until at least January 18.

All schools and colleges in Wales have been told to move to online learning until then, although that is the earliest target.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said the decision was “really difficult” but said education has a “significant role to play in suppressing the virus”.

Over the weekend teaching unions had called for a delay to the start of term amid concerns over a new Covid variant - and councils, including Monmouthshire County Council, had already planned to meet school leaders on Monday to thrash out their own plans.

Confirming the news of a temporary end to face to face teaching later that day, the council said schools will be making provisions for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers until January 18.

South Wales Argus: Kirsty WilliamsKirsty Williams

Kirsty Williams admitted she had 'grave concerns' for children due to the impact of the pandemic

Mother Shelley Herniman from Chepstow, who as a train manager is a key worker and whose son 14-year-old son Noah suffers from a genetic disorder which causes tumours to grow along his nerves, agrees with the decision.

“It’s a really difficult time for parents and Monday was the first time I genuinely questioned my decisions as a parent,” she said.

“I’d already decided I was taking Noah out of school on Monday. Chepstow School - which would have opened on Wednesday - have been brilliant throughout, but I just felt I couldn’t risk it this time.

South Wales Argus: Shelley HernimanShelley Herniman

Shelley Herniman

“I was quite relieved in the end to know the decision would have been taken out of my hands anyway.”

Mrs Herniman says Noah will not be returning to school any time soon, and said she is aiming for after the February half term.

“It’s not easy, I do worry about his education a lot, but I need to protect him.

“I think we need to look at what we’re teaching our kids in schools at the moment. They don’t get too much time online with their teachers, so perhaps it might be best to really prioritise the core subjects so it doesn’t impact the kids’ futures too much.”

South Wales Argus: Noah HernimanNoah Herniman

Noah Herniman

Dawn Lewis, a mother-of-three from Usk, Lewis says she has grown tired of the lack of notice over school announcements, but believes the decision was the right one.


“I just wish it was done earlier,” she said. “It would have saved so much stress in the build up to this week. I’d imagine similar conversations and worries were happening in most family homes.”

Mrs Lewis’s husband Neil is a local butcher, and she says their family couldn’t afford for one of the children to catch Covid and give it to Mr Lewis.

“Neil is asthmatic and we’re also reliant on his income,” she added. “If he got it we’d be in a very stressful position. It’s not so much about the kids, it’s the knock-on effect opening schools would have had.

“It’s not great having to juggle childcare and work every day, but it’s vital we continue doing it at the moment.

South Wales Argus: Dawn Lewis and her daughter home-schoolingDawn Lewis and her daughter home-schooling

Dawn Lewis and her daughter home-schooling

“Usk Primary School have been brilliant in how they’ve done online classes, so we’re lucky in that sense.”

Leanne Simcox, from Caldicot, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to school in Newport, said: "I agree with the decision and I'm a little relieved it was taken out of my hands in the end.

"I was finding it hard to make the decision to send my daughter back or not. I kept her off before Christmas to try and keep her safe because of the figures, so didn't really want to send her back with the figures still high.

"But it's so difficult. I know it might not get better for months, and she'd miss so much school.

"My biggest concern is the (social distancing on) the transport she gets to school."

Monmouthshire council cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Richard John, said the news is “sad for all the children and young people who were looking forward to returning to school, but I entirely understand the decision”.

He added: “Let’s hurry up with vaccinations so our children can get back to school.”

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has confirmed that mass vaccination centres will open across the Gwent region later this month, with mobile vaccination units also being deployed.