REOPENING of schools in Wales does not come without risks, the education minister has said.

Kirsty Williams MS was speaking at today’s Government press conference, where she announced all pupils to be able to return to school in September.

But she said: "It would be disingenuous for me to stand here today and say that the reopening of schools is a zero-risk proposition. Every time the Welsh Government takes a decision to take a step out of lockdown that comes with a risk attached to it.

“What we need to do in all circumstances is to mitigate that risk. Because of the hard work of the Welsh public, community transmission rates are now at a level where we can move forward with this decision.

"We will need to keep that under review throughout the summer period. It is really important that whatever decisions Welsh Government take next to unlock lockdown, we need to act in a responsible way to keep that community transmission down so that we can get back to normal as quickly as possible.”

The minister announced that, come the new autumn term, schools will return to full capacity with only limited social distancing within contact groups consisting of around 30 children.

In her announcement, Ms Williams said all schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures using the hierarchy of risk controls.

The minister acknowledged these logistical challenges that may arise as the new normal comes into place in the autumn and used the example of secondary schools to outline some of the measures that will greet pupils upon their return to the classroom in September.

Ms Williams said: “Some secondary schools in Wales are already trialling situations where Year 7 and 8 don’t move around the school, it is the individual teacher that moves from class to class and negates those busy corridor scenes we would normally see.”

She says pupils would only be moving out of the classroom for sessions that cannot be completed in a standard classroom – such as science labs or outdoor lessons.

The minster adds that schools have also amended their daily structure of lesson plans, some incorporating double lesson blocks, with the thought process that longer lessons will mitigate the number of times that children would need to move around a building.

Ms Williams also stressed that the maintenance of good hygiene practices such as hand washing, cleaning regimes and social distancing enforcement were still just as crucial to minimise the risks of transmitting the virus where it is possible to do so.

The minister added that each school in Wales will be required to have a plan in place should a localised outbreak occur, such as the incidents in Wrexham and Anglesey linked to food factory workforces.

She said that removing children from classrooms would not be off the cards, should the situation permit such an action but stressed that this would be a last resort as months of classroom time has already been lost to COVID.

She said: “Should the advice from Public Health Wales be that there may need to be disruption to an individual year group - or indeed a whole school - for a period of time that learning can switch from the classroom to remote learning.

“By taking the mitigation measures we are doing, and as individual members of society, of following guidance and taking personal responsibility we can keep community transmission rates low and keep our children in school.”