Secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday (14 December) as parts of efforts to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic in the country ahead of the Christmas period.
Primary schools and special schools are to remain open.
Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams has said that schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, however, education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.
University terms will have already finished for the majority of students – remaining teaching of the term for higher education students was moved online for most students last week as part of the student travel window.
Ms Williams said her decision followed expert advice from Wales’ Chief Medical Officer, which shows a deteriorating public situation in Wales in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, the ‘R’ rate in Wales is around 1.27, with a doubling time of just 11.7 days.
Announcing the plans to move schools online from Monday, Ms Williams said;
“The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.
“In his advice to me today, the CMO recommends that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils as soon as is practicable.
“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.
“We recognise, as we did during the firebreak, that it is more difficult for primary and special school age children to undertake self-directed learning.
“That is why we are encouraging primary and special schools to continue to stay open.
“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.”
Ms Williams has said that children should be at home from Monday and that everything should be done to minimise their contact with others, emphasising that next week is ‘not an early Christmas holiday.’
Since the end of the country’s fire-break lockdown in November, Coronavirus cases have been high in many parts of Wales, prompting concerns about restrictions that may be needed following the Christmas period in which regulations are set to be relaxed. Already last week, new curbs on hospitality came into effect in Wales with virus case rates rising.