Some schools in Wales may have to return to online learning because of rising levels of the Omicron variant, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the levels of staff illness would mean that some schools would not be able to have all pupils back in the classroom in January.

But those decisions would be made by individual schools and local authorities and not the Welsh Government, Mr Drakeford said.

Schools in Wales are already taking two planning days next week to prepare for the new term and plan for remote learning if necessary due to rising levels of Covid-19.


Most local authorities in Wales said pupils would return to school from January 6 after the two planning days.

Powys County Council said there would be “blended learning” from January 7 but schools would be open for vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Mr Drakeford told WalesOnline: “The first two days of term are planning days. What the education minister Jeremy Miles has asked schools to do is to plan for two possible futures.

“The one in which children can still be in the classroom, where there are sufficient staff to be there to be able to provide face-to-face learning, but to maximise the protection that can be put in place inside the classroom to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

“But we recognise that there will be some schools where, because Omicron is so transmissible, there will be staff who will be ill so it won’t be possible for every child to be in the classroom and therefore that a return for some students for a shorter period of time as possible to online learning may have to be there as well.”

In Wales, around one in 40 people is estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to December 23, equalling the previous record set in October.

Speaking in December, education minister Jeremy Miles said: “Schools will be asked to make use of the planning days to ensure they have robust plans in place to move to remote learning if required – this could be for individual classes or year groups or possibly for the whole school.

“Schools will be asked also to use this opportunity to revisit contingency plans, ensuring exam years are prioritised for onsite provision should there be a need to restrict in person learning at any time and consider what arrangements might need to be in place for vulnerable learners and the children of critical workers during any periods of disruption.”

Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives have called for an “army” of ex-teachers to be recalled to the classroom to help keep schools open.

Education spokeswoman Laura Anne Jones MS said the Welsh Government should follow a similar scheme announced in England.

“With cases of Omicron increasing across the country we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education,” she said.

“We have to be prepared for the new term ahead, otherwise our children will again feel the brunt.

“I hope the Labour Government gets such a scheme up and running so we can increase support in the classroom and minimise disruption to our children’s education.”

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