Children’s Commissioner for Wales responds to plans to re-open schools in January 2021

17 December 2020

Responding to the statement issued today by the Welsh Government and WLGA, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“Whilst accepting and supporting the Government’s efforts to keep us all safe and acknowledging the difficulties facing school leaders, my position on the reopening of school buildings is the same as last week. I’m unable to support further delays to in-school learning, except where individual schools face clearly defined, exceptional circumstances.

“Children and young people have told me that online learning, however well planned, is no substitute for being in the classroom. It clearly places already disadvantaged groups at a further disadvantage. The government and local education authorities already have this evidence.

“I note the Government statement that ‘face to face learning should be the default position’ but I think today’s announcement places unfair pressure on school leaders due to the timing and lack of detail around the criteria they should use to make such a significant decision.

“Children and young people have also told me that uncertainty and repeated periods out of the classroom have a negative impact on their emotional and mental health and we must remember the massive amount of face-to-face learning that children and young people have lost in 2020. This statement does not provide the assurances they need over the Christmas break.

“Data from England published today highlights how school closures have only a temporary effect on cases. I will be asking Public Health Wales to publish any similar data they hold so that we and others can examine the science behind this latest decision here in Wales.

“There is also a need for urgent clarity on plans relating to Covid testing for schools and colleges to avoid future disruptions not only to our children’s education but to their mental health and wellbeing.”