Kirsty Williams outshines Williamson with her guidance on Wales school re-opening.

Education spokesperson Layla Moran has often expressed her frustration with the Government for the mess it is making over re-opening schools.

If only there was a sensible Lib Dem Education Secretary.

But wait. There is. In Wales.

Our Kirsty Williams has been giving Gavin Williamson a masterclass in how to set out a comprehensive, detailed plan which keeps people on side and gives them enough time to do what is necessary. It’s the perfect example of competence, clarity and calm.

She said:

As Education Minister, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

“Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

“This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

“I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase.

“When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

In drawing up her decision framework, she is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders including unions, teachers and education providers.

Kirsty is being open and transparent about her approach and sets out the basis on which she will make her decisions in the Decision Framework document. 

In its foreword she writes:

This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing the operations of schools or other providers.

For example, in allowing time to plan ahead, there are a series of connected decisions. We will work towards the next end-of-cycle review, but I can also guarantee that the ‘next phase’ won’t start midweek; there will be preparation and training time for teachers, and we will work with local authorities to ensure the necessary cleaning and hygiene operations and products are in place.

I can guarantee that an increase in operations will be a phased approach. I do not expect that schools or other education settings across Wales will be open for all learners, from all years, all week, anytime soon.

I am sharing this working document, and framework for decisions, to show the extent of the issues related to the next phase. I want it to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback from the education family, including parents and carers, children and young people.

A much better approach than kite flying in the press, briefing attacks on education professionals and unions and giving the impression of not having the first clue what you are talking about.

While we are on the subject of Wales, by the way, come back just before 9 tomorrow morning to see my interview with former Welsh Assembly member Bill Powell, who recently spent 6 weeks in hospital, 3 of them in Intensive Care with Coronavirus.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 16th May '20 - 8:27pm

    Yes.

  • Glad to hear Kirsty Williams appears to be doing well, but frankly Gavin Williamson is no great shakes and no great stature to measure by …….

    Indeed this Johnson Cabinet is staffed by some of the most inadequate and spectacular second raters that I can remember in a long political lifetime. I’m hard put to remember a worse one….. what a litany, Williamson, Shapps, Jenrick, Patel just for starters…..

  • The wife and I have come to the conclusion that it is best if our one and only child remains away from school until the start of the new school year. We know from experience how quickly virus’s quickly spread round schools and how difficult it is for child to keep separated from their peers. This is a case of the Tory party trying to show how quickly everything is returning to normal

  • This one should be easy. Place children’s health first and do not take any steps that will put their health at unnecessary risk. Open schools when you can ensure the health and safety of pupils, teachers, and other staff, but not one second before.

  • John Marriott 16th May '20 - 10:06pm

    I see that several prominent CEX’s of Multi Academy Trusts seem keen on reopening asap. That doesn’t surprise me. I am one of the endangered species, who continue to advocate the return to democratically accountable local authority control. Safety for youngsters and those who work with them has got to be the number one priority. If the BMA has its doubts, that’s good enough for me.

    Not only do we appear to be obsessed with testing in our schools; but, compared with most of our european neighbours, insist on starting earlier. Formal education in many countries does not begin until seven and yet youngsters there do not seem to be at a disadvantage.

    As we appear to be several weeks behind many European countries on our lockdown, it stands to reason that any relaxing of this lockdown should occur later as well. The Education Secretary claims that the longer schools stay closed, the more youngsters will “miss out”. Whenever they do return the education they will receive will be very different from what was the norm pre Covid-19, as it will for societies in general around the world.

  • @ John Marriott Agree.

    Thankfully we don’t have the so called Academy system up here. The word academy retains its correct meaning…….. apart from the Hamilton Accies, that is.

  • Kevin Maher 17th May '20 - 8:31am

    What is unforgivable about the English Governments’ approach is that they have turned this issue form one of child safety (with the BMA advising against a return to school) to one of class, along the lines of middle class parents and teachers are being selfish resisting a return to school because working class parents are unable to look after their children.

  • I understand Eton is not opening up till September.Is it a class thing? It would seem sensible for ALL schools after preparing safety measures to wait till September rather than be pushed back before people are ready.

  • Phil Beesley 17th May '20 - 11:37am

    n hunter: “I understand Eton is not opening up till September.Is it a class thing? It would seem sensible for ALL schools after preparing safety measures to wait till September rather than be pushed back before people are ready.”

    I don’t think that schools should be starting up early, but in order to provide education we have to think differently about outdoor teaching and alternative classrooms. I wouldn’t fancy being taught outdoors at the end of October, so if we are going to use ad hoc teaching spaces it would make sense to go back to school this summer.

    Does UK government have orders for prefab classrooms? Are there plans for alternative play spaces?

  • I note that, as every time the government wants a ‘whopper’ told with a straight face, Gove was wheeled out this morning to tell us everything is safe for re-opening ‘State’schools…

    Perhaps the fact that Eton is closed until September might give us an idea of how safe ‘our betters’ think children/teachers, in close proximity, are…

  • Richard Underhill 17th May '20 - 12:49pm

    I wanted two things:
    1) direct election of a deputy leader and
    2) Kirsty Williams to stand.

  • Sue Sutherland 17th May '20 - 4:36pm

    Kirsty Williams is acting as I’d hoped all Lib Dem Ministers would act. She’s consulting and involving people in the decisions she makes. What a pity this didn’t happen during Coalition and doesn’t happen often enough in our party itself.

  • Steve Comer 18th May '20 - 2:51pm

    I think we can be really proud of the contribution made by both Kirsty Williams and Layla Moran. Other countries in Europe are managing school return much more effectively, the the Tory Government approach is baffling.

    Why for example do they want to get reception and year 1 pupils back first? These are precisely the age groups where imposing social distancing is most difficult, and who will have the most trouble understanding the issues around the virus.

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