Coronavirus: Schools in Wales all closing by Friday

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All schools in Wales will close by Friday at the latest in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Welsh Government has announced.

The country’s Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she was bringing forward the Easter break.

It comes as Scotland took similar steps with all schools and nurseries there closing from the end of the week and may not reopen before summer.

There are an estimated 200,000 cases of coronavirus across the globe.

“Today’s decision will help ensure an orderly closure, so schools have time to prepare,” said Ms Williams.

“Children will be off for four weeks but I have to be clear with parents, I am not anticipating we will be able to get schools back to normal at the end of the Easter break [or] for a considerable period of time.”

Ms Williams also said she did not expect this summer’s exams to go ahead but was hoping for an announcement “as soon as possible”.

Childcare centres are expected to remain open until advice is given to close them, Ms Williams added.

Headteachers body NAHT Cymru welcomed the announcement and said details of how schools can support vulnerable children and children of key workers were “yet to be finalised”.

Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said it was “the right decision at the right time”.

The announcement was made almost simultaneously with the Scottish Government’s decision that schools are expected to shut by the end of the week.

As well as action in Scotland and Wales, in Prime Minister’s Questions Boris Johnson said a decision on schools in England will be taken “imminently”.

Ms Williams said from next week, schools would have a “new purpose”.

“They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak,” she added.

“I am working with my colleagues in the cabinet, with government officials and our partners in local government to develop and finalise these plans.”

After the announcement, Ms Williams told the Senedd that it was not her expectation that every school would open and be functional at the end of the Easter recess.

“Clearly we will be keeping that situation under constant review,” she said.

Kirsty Williams told AMs that she was aware of the “stress and anxiety” school closures would have on young people and teachers currently preparing for exams.

She said she had discussed the issue with her ministerial counterparts in England and Scotland and “all three of us are grappling with the same issue”.

Ms Williams said she would update AMS as soon as possible on the way forward with exams but “at the heart of any decision would be “fairness and equity for young people”.

Plaid Cymru’s education spokesperson Sian Gwenllian said further clarity was needed, alongside clear guidelines from the education minister on the short-term role of schools.

She called for GCSE and A Level exams to be scrapped, postponed or adapted, with the aim of holding them in the autumn or coming to another arrangement.

Conservative shadow education minister Suzy Davies said the worrying question was whether schools would be able to reopen after Easter, adding it looked “unlikely”.

“Schools will continue to offer educational and social support to some children, and this is to be welcomed,” she added.

But she also wanted more information about when the questions around exams would be answered.

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