Bridgend schools to close earlier than planned as cases double

Another Welsh council has announced its schools can close for Christmas earlier than originally planned after the number of coronavirus cases in the area doubled in a week.

Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) decided its schools can close on Wednesday, December 16 – two days earlier than planned – as the local authority area became one of 10 in Wales with an infection rate above 400 cases per 100,000 people.

The number of positive cases in the county borough has doubled during the last seven days with Public Health Wales reporting 122 new cases in Bridgend on Wednesday. On the Wednesday before it reported just 61 new cases.

The council’s cabinet member for education and regeneration, Charles Smith, said he had “reconsidered” the original plans for school closure dates following discussions with local head teachers and school governors.

Cllr Smith, representative for Llangewydd and Brynhyfryd, said there were already “large numbers” of pupils self-isolating in the county borough in almost two-thirds of schools.

Yet while the number of pupils who’ve been sent home to self-isolate can look alarming it’s not necessarily a sign that Covid is running rampant through our classrooms with the numbers instead reflecting a strong response to a rate of infection well below that of the infection rate for Wales.

He said the decision to allow schools to close on December 16 was to try and “strike the right balance” between keeping pupils safe and not creating unnecessary childcare issues.

In a statement on Wednesday he said: “With large numbers of pupils already self-isolating in almost 59% of local schools we want to strike the right balance between ensuring that children can benefit from being at school, keeping them safe, and trying to avoid causing additional childcare issues for parents and carers.

“We also have to meet national requirements from Welsh Government so this new date is intended to provide pupils with a full week’s break before the Christmas festivities begin and to ensure that the safety of local children can remain our number one priority.

“With positive cases of coronavirus now in each of our cluster areas all head teachers were in favour of ending the school term earlier than originally planned.”

The new date applies to all schools in Bridgend County Borough except for Heronsbridge and Ysgol Bryn Castell, which will both close on December 18.

Sixth form students will stop attending school in person from December 11 with all Year 11 and Year 13 students being taught online during the week commencing December 14.

According to the council pupils will get “online learning opportunities” at home on December 17 and 18.

Head teachers and governors will also be able to decide whether a school needs to finish before December 16 according to their individual circumstances.

The announcement came on the same day Llanelli comprehensive school confirmed it’s asking its pupils to learn from home one week before the start of the normal Christmas break after receiving a number of correspondences from parents saying they wouldn’t be sending their children into classes.

Earlier this week Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly councils announced schools would be closing early for Christmas, despite a Welsh national agreement not to. Schools in Blaenau Gwent have already closed.

WalesOnline – Wales News