PARENTS in the Vale have been reacting to the news that Wales’ schools will remain closed until the February half-term.

All schools and colleges in Wales have been told to move to online learning until then, although that is the earliest target.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said the decision was “really difficult” but said education has a “significant role to play in suppressing the virus”.

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Over the weekend teaching unions had called for a delay to the start of term amid concerns over a new Covid variant – and councils, including the Vale of Glamorgan Council, had already planned to meet with schools on Monday to thrash out their own plans.

The council said schools will be making provisions for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers.

Mother-of-four Nikki Lacey, who has four children – two at university and two at secondary school – says that while she agrees with the decision, she worries about the long-term impact on her children’s education.

“I worry about the lack of face to face learning for all of my children,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Covid they’d have six hour-long classes a day. Now they get six 35-minute lessons, and half of those wouldn’t be face to face.

“It’s worrying because my son is in the middle of his GCSEs. Where’s the robust plan to make sure our children’s education isn’t being ruined?

“I don’t disagree at all with the decision to keep them off school, but there needs to be a plan in place.”

Mrs Lacey, who works full-time as well as her husband, said on Wednesday her son had received no face to face teaching by midday.

“I think schools are trying, but communication with parents needs to improve in our case.

“We’ve also had little clarity on whether the mock exams he did when he was in before Christmas will have a bearing on predicting grades later this year. It’s very uncertain and the I do get the feeling the goodwill is starting to dwindle.”

On Wednesday it was confirmed that internal assessments replacing next summer’s cancelled exams in Wales are scheduled to start in schools on February 22.

Mother-of-three Clare Hollinshead, who has two children at primary school and one in secondary school, also says she felt the decision to extend the closure was the right one.

Mrs Hollinshead – who is undergoing cancer treatment and is vulnerable – says she worried about relying on the actions of others to keep her family safe.

“I think the decision (to keep schools closed) had to be made, but I do have concerns for my children,” she said.

“The impact on them not seeing their friends and not getting the education they deserve is something them makes me anxious.

“Too much time alone and in front of a screen is no good for anyone.

“It will be more concerning if it continues after January 18. It’s difficult to maintain that motivation to keep going and keep balancing life with home-schooling.

“But if it’s what we have to do then so be it. It’s so important we protect the NHS. I’d hate for someone who was in my position (after a cancer diagnosis) to not get the treatment they need because our hospitals are overwhelmed.”

On Tuesday Ms Williams said schools will only remain closed after January 18 “if that’s the only thing we can do to suppress the virus”.

“Clearly any decision to close schools for face-to-face teaching contact for the majority of children is a really difficult decision,” she said, “and it’s a decision which has grave consequences for children.

“Education has a role to play in helping suppress the virus and helping our NHS to cope, and helping those doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals who are on the front line and struggling so hard.”