MORE than 1,700 cases of Covid-19 were recorded across schools in Monmouthshire in the last term.

Positive cases in the county’s schools totalled 1,769 between September 3 and December 12, with 964 cases in primary schools and 805 in secondary schools.

The total number represents 16 per cent of Monmouthshire’s school age population.

Cllr Paul Pavia, cabinet member for education, provided the figures as he gave an update on the impact of Covid-19 on schools at a full meeting of Monmouthshire council on Thursday.

“The impact of Covid on Monmouthshire schools has been more significant in the autumn term compared to any previous term throughout the pandemic,” he said.

Cllr Pavia said the impact had also been felt on staff, with a shortage of supply teachers creating additional pressure.

Schools saw a spike in cases around the October half-term, and there has then been “a clear shift” in cases from secondary to primary schools, the meeting heard.

Despite the impact of Covid, nearly all schools in Monmouthshire have remained open.

The update came as education minister Jeremy Miles told schools to plan for the possibility of a return to remote learning after the Christmas holidays.

Cllr Pavia said: “If this is the case and we have to return to remote learning, then I am very confident that the blended learning offer that has been developed and refined over the last 20 months will allow our pupils to continue to learn in the least disruptive was as possible.”

Cllr Armand Watts asked about ventilation in schools, raising concerns that some may have “relatively poor” ventilation due to the age of the buildings.

Cllr Pavia said ventilation would be “critically important” during the next term.

“We recognise this has been a challenging term, particularly the latter end of this term,” he said.

“But I think next term with the rapid spread of Omicron potentially is going to be even more challenging.”

Cllr Pavia said the council had received notification from the Welsh Government today (Thursday) that it could move to “a very high status” in terms of its local decision making framework.

As part of the high level status, measures such as regular testing for pupils and staff, mask wearing in classrooms and communal areas and staggered days could be implemented.

Cllr Martyn Groucutt asked if the council had considered moving to remote learning before the end of this term, as some schools in North Wales have done.

Cllr Pavia said the end of term for those schools was at a later date.

“In some schools we have probably just got there by the skin of our teeth,” he added.