Commissioner’s statement on letter to teaching unions

14 July 2020

Responding to feedback about a recent letter issued to education unions in Wales, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“Overnight, some teachers, school leaders and Unions have responded angrily to a letter I wrote prior to the Welsh Government announcing a full return to education establishments this September. I wrote that letter having heard from pupils, parents and teachers about their concerns about what would happen in September, after a weekend where there had been ultimatums set for Government. Within that letter I stress:

  • “… professionals deserve a well-earned break…”
  • “I know that education in Wales is full of dedicated and innovative professionals who play a vitally important role in the lives of children.”
  • “I have publicly applauded the response of the education profession to the initial impact of the pandemic, during which school leaders re-purposed schools and ensured the most vulnerable were supported.”

“On the same day I wrote to the Education Minister asking her to: “publish without delay your expectations of schools’ provision in the autumn term to enable school leaders to plan their provision” because I recognised the pressure that school leaders were under to make plans in a rapidly changing environment.

“I remain sincerely grateful to all heads, teachers, and support staff who’ve worked tirelessly to protect our children’s wellbeing through the lockdown. I would never suggest denying any teacher time off. The purpose of my letter was to ensure that everything was in place to maximise the opportunities for pupils to return to full time education in September.

“Responses to our ‘Coronavirus and Me’ survey showed concerns from children and young people about falling behind in their education.  It’s clear that some children and young people have not been able to have an education for an extended period and many children and their families will want to make up for this lost time.  Some groups of children may have particularly missed out, including children living in poverty and children with additional learning needs. I wouldn’t be doing my job as Children’s Commissioner if I didn’t stress the need to maximise opportunities for children to access their human rights on their behalf.

“I’d also like to highlight the contents of another letter I issued in May 2020 to all Unions in Wales following national media articles about schools reopening in England. I noted that it was crucial that all members of the school community feel safe and that decisions around schools reopening were complex and difficult and must be guided by public health information. I offered my assistance as part of the ongoing deliberations and requested a copy be issued to all members.

“Thanks to those Unions, teachers and education leaders who have engaged constructively with my office over recent months. I trust we’ll be able to continue to have robust conversations to protect what’s ultimately at stake here: children’s education in Wales.”