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Schools to close early in Bridgend County Borough

Following latest meetings with headteachers and governors, Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed that local schools can now close on Wednesday 16 December, and that pupils will receive online learning opportunities at home on 17 and 18 December instead.

The new date will apply to all schools, including nurseries, apart from Heronsbridge and Ysgol Bryn Castell which will both close as planned on 18 December.

Each school will also be able to decide if they need to close ahead of 16 December should it prove to be necessary in order to keep pupils, teachers and staff safe.

Councillor Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “Schools across Bridgend County Borough were originally set to close on 18 December, but the plans have been reconsidered after the total number of positive coronavirus cases in the county borough doubled in less than a week.

“Based on the latest figures and following conversations with local headteachers and school governors, we have agreed that the final day of term will now be 16 December.

“With large numbers of pupils already self-isolating in almost 59 per cent 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.

“At the same time, 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 headteachers were in favour of ending the school term earlier than originally planned.

“Based on clearly-defined risk assessments, headteachers and governing bodies will also be able to decide whether an individual school needs to finish before 16 December in order to manage any specific circumstances which may arise.”

Arrangements remain in place for sixth form students to finish physically attending school on 11 December, and for all Year 12 and Year 13 students to receive online learning during the week commencing 14 December.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are three reasons for this. Since we announced the plans, the following has happened:

•  Positive coronavirus cases throughout Bridgend County Borough have more than doubled in less than one week.
•  The number of pupils who are having to self-isolate has doubled in size.
•  Several hundred school staff have had to self-isolate.

The council plans ahead as much as possible, but if the pandemic situation changes rapidly, we have to react and take account of this.

The change of date was announced with a full week’s notice, which was as much as we could provide under these specific circumstances.

Childcare hubs were established while a full lockdown was in place, and households could not mix or use traditional childcare providers.

It is not possible to provide these in the same way for the 17 and 18 December as bubble arrangements within schools require pupils from the same class or year group to stay together in order to minimise risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

This date has been agreed with head teachers as the best option for striking a balance between ensuring that children can benefit from being at school, avoiding extended or additional childcare issues for parents and carers, meeting national requirements from Welsh Government, and above all, keeping pupils, staff and teachers safe.

It is also intended to provide pupils with a full week’s break before Christmas, and to ensure that the safety of local children can remain our number one priority.

Along with partners such as Public Health Wales and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, the council is monitoring the pandemic closely.

It is entirely possible that further changes could be announced should e.g. the situation worsen or new national guidance be received from Welsh Government.

Individual schools have the option of closing earlier based on their own circumstances and the outcome of a comprehensive assessment.

The council and schools will do all that they can to support pupils, parents and carers, but this is a pandemic situation and we all need to be prepared for changes at short notice.

Decisions to close schools are never taken lightly, and we will always consider issues such as the safe and effective running of a school, continuity of learning, the emotional well-being of learners and the impact that decisions to close schools may have on families.

Maintaining the safety and well-being of children remains our number one priority, and any decision to close a school will ultimately be because the council believes that it is in the best interests of the pupils.

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