Why the number of coronavirus cases in Welsh schools is not as bad as you may think


There have been 696 coronavirus cases reported by schools in Wales in the last week, the latest figures from Public Health Wales show.

The level of cases has led some to question whether the Welsh Government was right to ban alcohol sales in pubs and restaurants but to encourage schools to stay open until the end of term. There is also pressure from unions to end term early.

Yet analysis of the schools figures by WalesOnline shows that the level of infections in schools remains well below the infection rate in the wider population – suggesting that schools are not driving up the infection rate but, as Public Health Wales stresses in its weekly updates, may be being affected by infections that took place outside of schools.

Of the 696 cases in the six days to December 2, there were 325 coronavirus cases among primary staff and students. Using the figures from Stats Wales which show there are 296,800 pupils in Welsh primary schools from the first year of Foundation Phase through to Year 6, that suggests there were 121.3 cases in primary schools for every 100,000 pupils.

Given that the 325 cases figure includes infections in teachers and that teachers are not included in the 296,800 pupil headcount, it suggests that the infection rate in primary schools is around half or less the wider infection Wales-wide infection rate which hit 237.9 cases for every 100,000 people on Thursday, December 2.

The rate in secondaries was slightly higher but still below the Wales-wide coronavirus infection rate. There were 281 cases in Welsh secondary schools in those six days. The Stats Wales figures suggest there are 188,420 pupils in Years 7-13, which gives an infection rate of 149.1 cases for every 100k pupils.

Again, the true rate will be much lower as many of the infections are among school staff.

It is possible to calculate an infection rate that includes school staff, who number 23,795 full-time equivalents according to Stats Wales, teachers (23,594 full-time equivalents) and pupils 469,176 in all maintained schools and 9,984 pupils and 2,157 teachers and support staff in independent schools.

That gives an infection rate of 131 cases for every 100k pupils, staff and teachers in all Welsh schools – still only just over half the wider Welsh infection rate.

Public Health Wales also stresses in its update: “The presence of cases linked to a school or educational institution does not necessarily imply that transmission occurred in that setting.”

A pupil in class at Roath Park Primary in Cardiff

Six in 10 schools affected since term began

Public Health Wales data shows six in 10 schools across Wales have had coronavirus cases since term began in September.

Of the 4,144 total cases across 937 schools; 1,768 were in staff and 2,376 in pupils. From a total of 1,573 schools across Wales, this means 59.6% of schools have had a Covid-19 case. Of those schools affected 288 had only had one case.

Although more total cases have been reported in primaries a higher proportion of secondary schools have been affected.

Every secondary in 15 of Wales’ 22 council areas have now reported at least one Covid-19 case. In contrast only one (Blaenau Gwent) reported all its primaries have had at least one case. Nine in 10 primaries in Newport and Merthyr have had a case and nearly as many in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

First minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford said it has been a priority to keep schools open, but a number have shut this week because so many staff are self isolating

The areas with the most schools cases

The highest number of total cases were again in RCT schools at 99, closely followed by Cardiff with 91 and Swansea with 81 in the six says to December 2.

Cases have gone up across the board in schools in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cwm Taf University Health Board and Swansea Bay University Health Board areas.

All the secondary schools in these councils have had at least one case of coronavirus since term started:

Blaenau Gwent








Vale of Glamorgan





Neath Port Talbot


All the school pupils or staff that have tested positive in the six days to December 2 by local council and health board (with comparisons to week to the week before in brackets)

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Blaenau Gwent 26 (-16)

Caerphilly 62 (-17)

Monmouthshire 18 (+11)

Total: 169

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Anglesey 16 (+9)

Conwy 2 (+1)

Denbighshire 6 (-3)

Flintshire 7 (-12)

Gwynnedd 1 (-2)

Wrexham 23 (+12)

Total: 55

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Cardiff 91 (+11)

Vale of Glamorgan 39 (+5)


Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Bridgend 49 (+24)

Merthyr Tydfil 24 (+17)

Rhondda Cynon Taf 99 (+17)

Total: 172

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Carmarthenshire 22 (equal)

Ceredigion 8 (+1)

Pembrokeshire 5 (-7)

Total: 35

Powys Teaching Health Board

Powys 12 (-1)

Total: 12

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Neath Port Talbot 42 (+6)

Swansea 81 (+22)

Total: 123

This is how many coronavirus cases there have been in colleges

Cases in FE colleges by council and health authority areas in the six days to December 2.

Between the start of term in September and December 2 there have been 553 reports of new Covid-19 cases across the 12 colleges and their 43 campuses.

Cases in FE colleges by council and health authority areas in the six days to December 2:

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Blaenau Gwent 3 (-2)

Caerphilly 3 (-10)

Monmouthshire 2 (+2)

Newport 4 (+3)

Torfaen 0 (-2)

Total: 12

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Anglesey 0 (equal)

Conwy 3 (-1)

Denbighshire 0 (-2)

Flintshire 3 (+3)

Gwynedd 0 (equal)

Wrexham 10 (+6)

Total: 16

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Cardiff 6 (equal)

Vale of Glamorgan 1 (equal)

Total: 7

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Bridgend 6 (-15)

Merthyr Tydfil 9 (+6)

Rhondda Cynon Taf 9 (-1)


Hywel Dda University Health Board

Carmarthenshire 2 (equal)

Ceredigion 0 (equal)

Pembrokeshire 3 (-2)

Total: 5

Powys Teaching Health Board

Powys 0 (equal)

Total: 0

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Swansea 8 (+8)

Neath Port Talbot 11 (+10)

Total: 19

Schools shut to coronavirus

A number of schools have closed this week because of high numbers of coronavirus. Ceredigion Council closed Ysgol Ciliau Parc primary temporarily from December 3 after a further Covid-19 case was confirmed.

“Two contact groups out of three have now been affected by positive cases and therefore, due to lack of staffing, the whole school will close for a period of time,” the council said.

Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant in Llanelli also shut to all its 450 pupils on December 2 because so many staff and pupils are self isolating.

Fitzalan High in Cardiff shut to all its more than 1,700 pupils on December 1 after seven cases among pupils across three year groups.

Hundreds of pupils on Anglesey will also have to learn from home after Holyhead secondary Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi and two primaries, Ysgol Gymraeg Morswyn in Holyhead and Ysgol y Ffridd in Gwalchmai shut to coronavirus earlier this week.

Adam Rhys Williams, Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi head teacher, said the decision came after “several positive cases within the school community”.

At the end of November 13 schools across Ceredigion and Pembokeshire shut because so many staff and pupils were self isolating after cases there.

Blaenau Gwent Council said one of its primary schools in Tredegar is shut this week and “the majority of our schools have groups of pupils and staff self-isolating under the Test Trace Protect guidelines”.

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