Primary schools in Wales could fully reopen from 15 March - will the rest of the UK follow?
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford is set to announce that stay at home orders will stay in place for a further three weeks in order to allow a safe return to school for the country’s youngest pupils.
If Covid-19 cases continue to fall, primary school children could return to school from 15 March, Drakeford confirmed.
‘Back in face to face education’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Drakeford said: “I’ll be saying today that on Monday 15 March, provided things continue to improve, all primary schoolchildren will be back in face to face education and those students in secondary schools who are facing examinations, we aim to get them back in the classroom as well.
“And then we will carefully review as a part of our deal with our teaching unions and local education authorities. We take a step, we collect the evidence, we decide what to do next.”
Drakeford added that the Welsh government would take a “careful and cautious step by step approach” to easing lockdown restrictions across Wales.
The Welsh First Minister also Tweeted: “If cases continue to fall, we will use the next three weeks to see if we can get more students to schools and colleges before Easter.
“We’ll also look carefully at options for re-opening some non-essential retail and close contact services, like hairdressing.”
Will the rest of the UK follow?
With Wales making moves to get students back into classrooms, this is everything you need to know about what Scotland, England and Northern Ireland are planning to do.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously confirmed that there will be a staggered return to schools, starting with children in years primary one to primary three, going back from Monday 22 February.
Pupils in secondary schools who have to complete practical work to achieve a qualification will also be allowed back from the same date, but must maintain social distancing requirements.
Sturgeon has said that no other pupils will return before 15 March.
She warned that getting children back into education “may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer”, and added: “That is a trade off we need to be willing to take.”
According to the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to reopen schools on 8 March.
However, this will depend on what the data around case and infection rates shows.
Johnson said that teachers and parents would be informed when schools in England can reopen “as soon as we can”.
Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) heads’ union, has said that the return of secondary school pupils should be staggered, to allow students to be tested for Covid-19.
He said: “It would make more sense for them to be brought back into school in phases and tested as they return.”
First Minister Arelen Foster has confirmed that Northern Ireland’s lockdown will be extended to 1 April, but some children will be able to return to school earlier.
From 8 March, pre-school, nursery and primary school pupils in year groups P1 to P3 will be able to return to face to face learning.
On 22 March, secondary school students who will be awarded qualifications this summer (year groups 12 to 14) will also return to school.
In order to minimise the impact on infection rates when year 12 to 14 return, pre-school, nursery and P1 to P3 pupils will return to remote learning for a week on 22 march.