EDUCATION Minister Kirsty Williams has confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.

Ms Williams revealed the news at this afternoon’s daily coronavirus briefing, where she said the decision was taken based on significant scientific evidence and advice.

The Welsh Technical Advisory Group, which provides advice to the Welsh government, has this week recommended that schools “plan to open in September with 100 per cent of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing decline in the presence of Covid-19”.

Ms Williams confirmed that the term will begin on September 1, and there will be a period of flexibility to allow schools to prioritise year groups, such as those taking important exams.

The new guidance for schools in September, as it stands, is as follows:

  • Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within contact groups – or classes
  • At full operation, a contact group should consist of around 30 children
  • Ms Williams says she recognises that mixing between children in different contact groups is unavoidable, such as those on public transport.
  • Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations.
  • Every school should continue to be Covid-protected, the health minister says, meaning they should continue to carry out risk assessments and mitigate the risks of transmission with a combination of hand and surface hygiene and one-way social distancing systems, for example.
  • Each school will be provided with home-testing kits.
  • If there are warning signs of local outbreaks, then schools nearby should implement “appropriate restrictions”.

The minister outlined plans just hours after confirming the Welsh government would make £29m available to “recruit, recover and raise standards” in Welsh schools.

Asked whether parents can be confident of sending their children back to school in September, she said: "We have significant experience and have managed this safely. Over the last two weeks the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I have waited to make this decision until I have received the scientific advice.

"This has been a very stressful time and it is only natural parents will be worried. 

"Parents can have confidence they are sending children to environments that will be safe and secure."

The Education Minister said that while parents will not be fined from the outset if they decide not to send their children to school, this will be constantly reviewed.

A back-up plan will be put in place at each school in Wales to ensure that if public health advice changes, schools can "smoothly return" to remote learning.

Ms Williams added, however, that this would be a last resort, and the Welsh government would first consider other means of mitigation such as restrictions on public transport.