The Welsh Government has asked for students studying in Wales to return home for Christmas by December 9th.
The new plans were announced by Education Minister Kirsty Williams, and will allow students who have to self-isolate enough time to get home for Christmas Eve.
According to her, the Government has “come up with the best possible solution to the difficult circumstances”, and that “we’re having to manage a whole series of firsts during this pandemic”.
On the topic of those showing symptoms, Ms Williams emphasised that they “go and get themselves tested and also to abide by a period of quarantine whether they have had a positive test themselves or have been advised to self isolate by our contact tracers.”
In preparation for the mass number of students to be tested, new asymptomatic testing facilities will be set up at universities in Wales over the next few weeks.
A rapid testing procedure has also been announced, where students will be asked (not compulsory) to receive a COVID-19 test prior to their travel in order to safely return to their families.
Also following the announcement, in-person teaching will also end on December 8th, with remaining lectures and teaching sessions moving online for the remainder of the semester.
However, students will not be allowed to return home until the staggered travel period begins on the 3rd, in which universities will stagger departure dates to avoid overwhelming public transport. Ms Williams mentions: “Universities continue to provide face to face teaching so we are asking students to stay put to continue to engage in their learning.”
Similar procedures will be put in place for students in English universities, and talks are underway regarding students returning to university in January.
The news also comes alongside the announcement of next year’s GCSE and A-Level examinations being cancelled due to the ongoing complications of the pandemic. In lieu of these, classroom-based assessments will be incorporated.
On this, Ms Williams said:
“We remain optimistic that the public health situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.”
“Cancelling exams provides time for teaching and learning to continue throughout the summer term, to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in our learners to progress in whatever they decide to do next.”