Two schools have shut for face-to-face teaching and sent all learners back home to learn remotely, blaming Covid staff absences.
The two schools, who have not been named by the Welsh Government, are among a much larger number of schools that have sent individual year groups home with schools saying there is a shortage of supply staff to cover absences.
Asked about the situation across Wales a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Based on the latest information provided by local authorities, the vast majority of schools are offering full on-site provision to learners.
“A small number of schools have moved to remote learning for some learners for a short period of time over the past week, due to staff absences.
“We are also aware of a couple of schools where all learners have temporarily moved to online learning over the past week due to more significant levels of staff absences.
“The situation continues to change on a daily basis. We will continue to monitor the position closely and are in regular discussion with local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association and unions to maximise learning and minimise disruption.”
The spokesperson declined to say which schools had sent all learners home.
A number of councils have confirmed some pupils have returned to online learning from home.
Swansea Council confirmed an entire year six in one of its primaries was learning remotely on February 4 and said since the start of term six schools have had to move year groups to remote learning at some point.
All pupils in years seven and eight at Lewis School Pengam have reverted to online learning from February 3 and all year nines at Idris Davies School were sent to work remotely on February 2, Caerphilly Council confirmed.
Merthyr Council said its special school Greenfield and pupil referral unit Ty Dysgu have had to move some classes on line at various points since the start of term due to staff shortages. Year eight pupils at Newport High were sent home to work remotely again last week.
Ceredigion Council said one class in Aberporth Primary School was closed for three days this week and learning remotely and one class is closed in Canolfan y Don Aberporth.
Blaenau Gwent Council said one secondary schools moved its entire year Year 9 pupils to blended learning for one day on February 2.
The year five class at Bishop Childs Church in Wales Primary in Cardiff is also working from home.
In a letter to parents on the school’s website on February 1 headteacher Nicola Price and chair of governors Caroline Hartfield said: ” As we have been unable to source any supply cover, Cwtch 5 will be closed to pupils on Wednesday 2nd February and Thursday 3rd February.
“Today, the children have been reminded how to log into their Google Classroom accounts so that they can access their home learning. The tasks will be available from 9am onwards each day.”
The letter added: “We are so sad to have to resort to this measure and have tried everything possible to keep the class open. As things stand, we will be open as usual on Friday 4th February and will be looking forward to welcoming the children back to school. With thanks for your continued support and understanding.”
Cardiff council, Wales’ largest local education authority said some whole classes in its schools are working from home again, but would not confirm which schools are affected.
A Cardiff Council spokesman said: “Cardiff, like many local authorities, is still experiencing significant numbers of positive (Covid) cases in schools amongst both staff and pupils.
“Challenges caused by staff absences and limited supply cover has meant that in some cases, schools have temporarily moved classes or year groups to remote learning.
“Schools continue to implement mitigations in line with Welsh Government Guidance with ongoing support from the local authority.”
Flintshire Council said four of its primary schools partially closed for two or three days in the week ending February 28.
Laura Doel, Director of the National Association of Headteachers Cymru, warned schools are “still very much in the grip of the pandemic”.
She added: “Learner absence, coupled with staff absence rates continue to cause concern means the delivery of education is still being disrupted across Wales.”
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Latest Welsh Government pupil absence data shows just 85% of pupils are attending school with the situation worst in primaries. An average of 6.8% of all primary pupils and 3.8% of all secondary pupils are absent for a known Covid related reason.
On January 28 – the latest date for full data – a total 16,755 primary pupils and 6,949 secondary pupils were off school for a known Covid related reason, according to Welsh Government data published on February 2.
With continued disruption to education some headteachers, teaching unions, parents and pupils have questioned how fair it is for exams to go ahead this summer.
They have pointed out that with such wide variation in how much face to face learning has been lost this academic year running exams, even with content reduced, would not be a true reflection of every pupils’ ability. They say the same conditions are in place this year which saw exams ditched and a return to teacher assessed grades last year.
Eithne Hughes, Director of of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said: “For the second week running not a single year group for statutory aged pupils has hit 90% attendance, but the continuing deterioration in the absence recorded among our exam-age learners is becoming a serious cause for concern.
“This is particularly worrying among those who face A-levels in a matter of a few weeks’ time, with a quarter of them absent last week, again for the second week running, and continuing the parlous trend we have seen for several months now.
“Schools are now engaged in planning for scaling back their Covid protection measures in readiness for moving back to the Welsh Government’s contingency framework after half-term in February, but will be wondering why they are being asked to do so whilst the overall absence picture continues to be so negative.
“The Welsh Government needs to give schools and colleges more confidence in the measures proposed by issuing detailed and coherent guidance if we are to stand any chance of seeing higher attendance rates after half-term.”
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