THE YOUNGEST children in Wales will be able to return to school later this month in an announcement made today by education minister Kirsty Williams.

Children aged between three and seven will be able to return to classroom teaching from Monday, February 22.

This was expected after first minister Mark Drakeford said on January 29 that the foundation phase learners – those aged up to seven – would start returning to classrooms after the February half term if coronavirus case rates continued to fall. It was said that there would be a two-week notice period between the announcement being made and the date which children would be able to start returning.

Ms Williams said that there will be a phased return for the pupils - but a decision has not been made on older pupils returning to school yet.

“We have been clear that children’s education is a priority throughout the pandemic," she said. "Sadly, we have not been able to see a return to school for every child. However, because of the work done there is some headroom for children to return.

“Children of critical workers and vulnerable learners as well as those who are taking exams and in special schools are able to return to school as they have done.

“Small numbers of vocational learners, including apprentices, will also be able to return to college.”


Dr Chris Jones, the deputy chief medical officer for Wales who joined Ms Williams at the briefing, said: “The R value is currently below one. This gives some headroom for a phased return of some primary school children who are at a lower risk of infection.”

He continued that keeping the R rate – which is estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9 – down will allow for more pupils to be able to return to face-to-face learning.

A number of measures have also been announced for schools to continue to keep things safe. There will be twice weekly coronavirus testing for staff members in schools and a further £5 million for additional items including face masks to keep premises safe.

Ms Williams added: “You only get one childhood which is exactly why we are trying to get children back to school.

“I need to be clear, we are being told time and time again that our education premises are safe but it is the added movement around them that provides a risk. So I urged parents, carers and children to follow the guidelines to ensure that our young people are able to do what we all want which is to return to school and learning with their friends.”