Education Minister Kirsty Williams has today called on school staff to do what they can to keep schools open for NHS staff and carers during the two weeks that should have been the Easter holidays.
The minister thanked all school staff who had met the challenge of keeping more than 700 schools open to support with the immediate response to coronavirus before asking for help in what she described as a ‘time of national need’.
The minister said:
It takes a community to raise a child and that statement has never been more true.
In this time of national need, our school community has stepped up and met the challenge.
More than 700 schools have stayed open to look after the children of NHS staff, carers, people who are saving lives.
I am now asking you to do more and keep schools open during what would have been school holidays.
Speaking on a video released on Twitter, the Minister continued:
It has never been more important for our children and young people to be surrounded by the people they know and trust.
I am asking you to be flexible, and to offer up some time during the Easter period to continue to support both vulnerable children and the families of our critical workers.
The minister was clear that she was not asking school staff to put themselves at risk and reiterated that teachers should follow the latest Welsh Government guidance of making school settings safe and the latest public health advice.
The minister continued:
Many local authorities have already started to put provision for the Easter holidays in place - we expect all local authorities to do the same.
I would like to thank our workforce unions, both nationally and locally who have worked with us towards the same goals – the welfare of our children, young people and teaching profession, not only teachers, but assistants, catering staff, caretakers and many others.
The minister also confirmed that the current provision of assistance to families of children in receipt of free school meals would include the Easter school holiday period.
Wales has a strong tradition of supporting communities and I can confirm that the funding announced last week to support children in receipt of free school meals can be used to carry on providing free school meals over the Easter holiday, she said.
This will allow local authorities to continue with their local arrangements while we establish a national scheme to support children in receipt of free school meals.
In devising a national scheme I will ensure that local authorities will still be able to maintain their own approaches, should they want to do so.
They will have the discretion to opt into a national scheme, or continue to provide flexible support if that is their preference, such as direct payments or deliveries to families who are unable to leave their homes, due to isolation requirements.
I believe this will be a sustainable approach, that will enable families to budget and plan their spend according to their needs.
The minister ended her video message by saying:
Finally, I would like to say how much I, and the people of Wales, appreciate your commitment, your dedication and your goodwill.
For me, and pupils across Wales, school staff are already our everyday heroes. But now in this time of national need – in supporting the fight against coronavirus – you are national heroes.