PARENTS and teaching unions have questioned the Welsh Government’s decision to reopen schools from June 29 after education minister Kirsty Williams MS announced the plans earlier today.

At the daily coronavirus briefing Ms Williams confirmed that schools will open for pupils from all year groups for limited periods during the week, but only a third of pupils will be in school at any one time.

She said this was an “opportunity” rather than a necessity, but parents and unions have asked for evidence that the decision will not cause a spike in deaths.

Nick Langston-Able, who lives in Chepstow and whose children, five and seven, attend the town's Dell School, said he will not be sending his children back before September.

“I do not have the assurances as yet that the test and trace system in Wales is of a standard where it is safe for children to return to school,” he said.

Free Press Series: Nick Langston-AbleNick Langston-Able

“It isn’t necessarily about my children, but I am worried about the knock-on effect of this decision.

“What happens when someone becomes ill with Covid-19 at a school? Suddenly the whole school is rife with it and what next?

“If they can’t test teachers and students with a quick result afterwards, I don’t see myself deciding to put my kids in that position.”

Simon Clayden, from Newport who has five children all under the age of 15, said: “I was not filled with reassurance watching that briefing. It is very hard, I am a caretaker at Gaer Schools and I would like to know I will be safe, as I am diabetic with a six-week-old baby.

Free Press Series: Simon Clayden and daughter DarcieSimon Clayden and daughter Darcie

“I suspect even doing a morning and then afternoon session we’ll have to be doing full clean-downs.

“I believe we should have stayed shut until September so the education staff could come up with a safe plan.”

Claire Peach, from Newport, who has a 12-year-old son, said: "I do understand why some kids need to be back, my disabled friend's kids in England went back today and finally she has a chance to rest and get well. Some kids are vulnerable. Some parents rely on them for childcare.

"I am not against them opening, just won't be using it myself without some very efficient reassurance.

"I love our school but the science must match."

Scores of parents reacted to the announcement on the South Wales Argus Facebook page, and most are anxious about the plan, questioning whether social distancing can be maintained. Some said they want to see how the coronavirus figures look at the end of the month before making a decision, but many said they will not be sending their children back to school yet - some because of health issues.

Teaching and staff unions have raised concerns as to how the return to school will be managed and whether the idea of all school years being involved is wise.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary for NASUWT, said: “It is troubling that the education minister, unlike ministers elsewhere, is using emergency powers in order to press ahead with plans for the wider reopening of schools.

Free Press Series: Dr Patrick RoachDr Patrick Roach

“The education minister needs to provide the scientific evidence on which the Welsh Government is relying to support its plans for the wider reopening of schools.”

Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “School leaders have concerns about the logistics of getting every child into school on a staggered basis, especially given the very limited timescale to make this happen. But we appreciate it's acknowledged that a cap on overall numbers will need to be applied and that the schools will need to be allowed flexibility to achieve this over time and not overnight.

“We will be seeking further discussions with Welsh government on the flexibilities, practicalities and guidance that will be needed to support schools in implementing wider reopening plans.”

Rosie Lewis, UNISON organiser and schools lead, said: “The reopening of schools is not as simple as making sure classrooms are safe and testing teachers.

“The practical arrangements involved in ensuring all school facilities are managed in a safe way are of vital importance.

“This will include cleaners, facility management, and school catering. Many of the workers in these categories arguably have contact with more pupils than teaching staff.

“School education relies on the whole schools workforce, and the antibody testing strategy must reflect this.

“We call on the Welsh Government to revisit their plans and ensure that all schools workers are treated equally in relation to testing.”