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OLDER learners in primaries and secondaries across Carmarthenshire have returned to school.

All primary school year groups are now back in the classroom for face-to-face learning.

Headteacher at Ysgol Y Bryn in Llanelli Stephen Thomas said it had been a pleasure to see all pupils return to school.

“Our pupils came back to school with beaming smiles and these have continued throughout the week,” he said. “After speaking with many of the children, they are expressing how happy they are to be back with their friends, to be back in the classroom with the teachers, off devices and how nice it is to be able to get out of the house and find some routine again.

“The focus for us now is reconnecting pupils with their friendship groups, promoting physical exercise daily following long periods of a lack of activity and simply allowing time for pupils to build their self-esteem and be happy again.

“We will continue our planned learning journey with the pupils, and I must say they have been fantastic getting back down to business. They have shown a real appetite for learning since returning to school and we are looking forward to seeing the progress they make for the remainder of the academic year.”

Secondary schools have welcomed back learners in years 11 and 13, as well as offering some flexibility for learners in years 10 and 12.

Pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 are also being given the opportunity to check-in with their teachers ready for a full return after the Easter holidays, as long as coronavirus rates continue to fall.

Headteacher at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman Nerys Nicholas said the school has welcomed back learners in a phased return which would help them to prepare for the summer term.

She said: “It has been lovely to welcome back our older pupils onto the school site in a phased return programme since March 15 which has promoted increased confidence in all stakeholders.

“This period before the Easter break has allowed us to rekindle those positive relationships onsite which form the heart of the school community here at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman. Seeing familiar friendly faces, even behind the face coverings, has been wonderful.

“Both staff and pupils have been eager to re-familiarise themselves with health and safety strategies and to re-focus on the challenges ahead. I thank everyone for their continued co-operation, and we all look forward with hope to a full re-opening of schools in the summer term.”

The safety measures in place in all schools have been reviewed in line with Welsh Government’s latest operational guidance. Face coverings, social distancing, classroom bubbles and frequent handwashing/sanitising are now part of the new normal, along with lateral flow testing.

The testing is being offered to learners in years 10 to 13, along with all school staff to carry out at home twice a week; and the aim is to quickly identify those who are unknowingly carrying the virus so that they can self-isolate to prevent more people from catching it.

However, it is important to remember that the purpose of the testing is to complement the safety measures that have already been put in place in schools, and a negative test result should not be read as a means to relax or ignore social distancing or other measures to help reduce transmission.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Gareth Morgans said: “It is wonderful to see so many of our learners back in the classroom with their teachers and friends.

“We will be supporting our schools to help pupils with their learning, and to focus on their wellbeing which is equally as important. It has been an extremely difficult year for everyone, but our young people have been affected by the pandemic in a number of ways, and we must not forget how hard it has been for them, not seeing their friends and teachers, and unable to take part in the various activities they enjoy both in and out of school.

“I would like to thank all our schools and teaching staff for all their hard work this past 12 months, the dedication and resilience they have shown has been extraordinary. And I would also like to thank parents too for all their support and co-operation, having to juggle work with helping their children with home learning and all the other family pressures I know has not been easy.

“By working together we can keep our schools safe and open, and we can welcome back even more children after the Easter holidays.”

For further information on schools during the pandemic including further information on lateral flow testing please visit the Carmarthenshire County Council website: carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education

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