Pupils in primary and special needs schools across the Neath Port Talbot county borough will be closing early for Christmas as the county continues to have one of the highest coronavirus case rates in Wales.
Schools will shut their doors from Tuesday, December 15 and move to distance learning. It means lessons will be delivered remotely to ensure pupils can continue to study until the end of term on Friday, December 18.
Neath Port Talbot Council warned it was vitally important that all pupils engaged with this online learning and emphasised that, on the advice of Public Health Wales, children and young people should not be allowed to meet with friends or congregate in public places.
It comes as the case rate in Neath Port Talbot has risen to 718 per 100,000 people, for the 7-day rolling period up to December 8. That was the highest rate in Wales, but it’s now been overtaken by Merthyr Tydfil which has a rate of 764.
A council spokesman said: “This remains a school week and all staff and pupils are expected to respect it as such.”
It is hoped that the decision will also allow families to pre-isolate for the Christmas break as they will be less likely to mix outside of their households for the incubation period of 10 days.
This is seen as an effective way of lowering the risk of infecting others, however self-isolation remains paramount for anyone with coronavirus symptoms.
Head teachers will be making local decisions regarding the support for vulnerable pupils and schools are also advised to accommodate children of key workers.
Home to school transport will continue to be available to those pupils who currently qualify.
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This was not an early Christmas holiday, and the council requested that pupils and parents did everything they could to minimise contact with others, the spokesman said.
“All pupils can make a difference to reducing the transmission of the virus by staying at home, engaging with their learning and by being responsible in their actions.”
Those pupils attending school from Tuesday, December 15, to Friday, December 18, will be able to receive a meal or can bring a packed lunch to school. Those pupils in receipt of free school meals will be provided with a meal.
Pupils entitled to free school meals who are accessing their learning from home will be provided with a BACS payment as has happened previously.