COUNCILS in Gwent are not planning to close schools early this month, despite continuing uncertainty over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Political leaders in Wales and Westminster have warned of an imminent wave of Covid infections caused by the spread of the new Omicron variant of the virus, which early research suggests is transmitted more easily.

First minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday the Welsh Government would not enforce a nationwide early closure of schools, but added that it was up to councils to make their own decisions locally.

Today, however, the five councils in Gwent confirmed to the Argus that they were all planning to keep schools open as normal, with the last day of the current term being Friday, December 17.

Some schools may close to pupils earlier if there are scheduled teacher-training days, and in Monmouthshire, one secondary school has moved its sixth form to blended learning this week due to "significant staff absences".

Each of Gwent's five councils also confirmed they had not held any discussions with schools regarding any changes to the end-of-term date.

Their approach differs from other parts of Wales. Anglesey council announced today (Monday) that most pupils there would move to online blended learning for the last three days of term. The island currently has the highest Covid infection rates in Wales.


Will unauthorised absences be punished this week?

We asked the five councils whether they would take any action against parents who decided to keep their children home in the last week of term.

In Wales, parents can be hit with fines for their children's unathorised absences, and in the more serious cases they can be prosecuted.

Each of the councils in Gwent said they were encouraging parents to continue sending their children to school as normal this week.

In Newport, the city council said it would not take "specific action" against parents who decided not to send their children to school this week, and in Caerphilly the county borough council said: "Should parents decide not to send their children to school between now and the end of term this will be dealt with on a case by case basis, to be determined by the school."

Other councils offered stricter guidance on the matter.

Blaenau Gwent council said its "normal attendance procedures will apply" during the last week of term, and Monmouthshire council said "there is no reason that children should not attend school... unless they are showing any Covid symptoms, when they should take a test and then self-isolate if necessary".

Torfaen council took a similar stance, saying: "Children and young people are expected to be in school as normal. Schools and the Education Welfare Service will continue to work with parents regarding any unauthorised absences."