MONMOUTHSHIRE council’s cabinet member for education is calling on the Welsh Government to exempt schools from social distancing in September.

Cllr Richard John, the cabinet member for education, spoke about his concerns surrounding social distancing in schools to the county council’s cabinet in yesterday’s meeting (July 1).

Cllr John said: “I believe the interests of children and young people in Monmouthshire would be best served by removing the two metre social distancing law and fully reopening all schools to all pupils from September, of course subject to scientific advice on the rate of transmission and any localised lockdowns.

“So, I strongly urge the Welsh Government to consider exempting schools from social distancing and enable proper planning for that school experience.”

Cllr John said it had been a “really challenging and distressing period of time” for many parents and students.

“By September many pupils will have had just three days in school in a period of six months so I am really concerned that we are approaching a tipping point now where by the risks of continued lockdown in terms of mental and physical wellbeing are beginning to outweigh the risk of spreading the virus,” he said.

“I am also concerned that as the economy is starting to unlock the fact that many schools are only fully open to key worker children, risks many non-key worker children losing their jobs.

“The impact of children and young people on parents losing their jobs, worklessness, poverty, are all well documented.”

Cllr John said that reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre would only have a limited impact on how many pupils schools in Monmouthshire could accommodate and suggested that in such a case pupils could still only attend school for two days a week.

“It would mean yet more missed formal education for children and a greater risk that very vulnerable children could be missing out on the support they desperately need.

“We have got just two and a half weeks now before the end of the summer term in which schools can plan for reopening in September

“Of course, there are plans for blended or distanced learning should there be a second wave or any localised lockdowns.”

The cabinet member for social care, safeguarding and health, Cllr Penny Jones said that not all vulnerable children had been identified by the council.

She said: “Yes we know some, and we can take care of those, but a lot more is going on behind closed doors during this lockdown that we may not know about and we will not know about until they get back to school.”

Pupils went back to school this week in Wales, but no more than a third are allowed at any given time.

A decision has not yet been made by the Welsh Government on the sort of learning students can expect in September.