VIRUS:WHEN WILL THE LOCAL SCHOOLS GO BACK?

SCHOOLS GOING BACK

The way we were before the lockdown in cloakroom and classroom.

By Bill Heaney

The Government will publish a route map tomorrow (Thursday), which will include consideration of the issues connected with the reopening of schools.

The education recovery group has group has brought together the Scottish Government, local authorities, professional associations, parents and other stakeholders in education.

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John Swinney

It is considering all practical options that will allow it  to address the questions of safety, healthcare, well-being and learning that will affect the reopening of schools, Education Secretary John Swinney told the Holyrood Parliament.

“It is vital that we conduct that exercise based on the circumstances that prevail in Scotland,” he told MSPs.

Green Party MSP Jamie Greene said: “Given that Scotland follows a different academic calendar from other parts of the UK, it seems reasonable and not entirely unexpected that, as most parents have come to accept, schools are unlikely to open meaningfully before August.

“The key question on the minds of many parents will be: if schools remain closed for some months to come, how on earth will they be able to plan a route back to work?

“Parents are currently unable to access childminders, after-school clubs, summer schools or babysitters, or even drop off their children with friends or relatives, such are the current restrictions.

“Will the Government produce updated guidance on changes to those restrictions, so that parents can start to have those conversations with their employers?

John Swinney replied: “Mr Greene raises a fair and representative range of issues that must be considered around the question of relaxing lockdown in general in Scotland.

“There is clearly an inter-relationship between access to education and individuals’ obligations to carry out employment.

“The route map that the Government will bring forward on Thursday will air those challenging and complex issues, which are related and can be difficult to resolve because of the health imperatives with which we have to wrestle.

“Those questions are actively being considered by the Government and will be set out as part of the route map.”

Mr Greene said: “We learned in the media today of the potential for schools to reopen early in August—the date given was 11 August—using a form of blended learning, which involves pupils splitting their time between home and the classroom.

“The First Minister did not rule that out earlier. Can the cabinet secretary shed more light on how that might work in practice? Who was consulted on the approach? How will part-time schooling fit into our plans for an economic recovery, if parents are unable to work full time due to the new, blended approach?”

John Swinney’s reply was cautious: “It is essential that we are guided by all the scientific and health advice that is relevant to coronavirus. We continue to face a significant challenge with the prevalence of coronavirus in our society.

“The statistics with which we have all become far too familiar about the level of fatalities and infections that individuals have suffered are reminders of the importance of addressing the health imperatives that we face.

 

“The Government wishes to relax the lockdown as quickly as it can, but we cannot be cavalier about the health implications of so doing. We have to look carefully at the arrangements to deliver schooling in a fashion that is compatible with the health advice that we receive.

“Those are the questions with which the Covid-19 education recovery group has wrestled. Mr Greene asked who has been consulted. I deliberately set up the education recovery group to bring together local authorities, professional associations, representatives of the teaching profession and parents to make sure that we had an open conversation about those questions.

“I am very grateful to members of the education recovery group for the way in which they have engaged with the issues. It has been part of trying to reach an agreed approach, which is what I am committed to doing. It will serve the interests of every one of us, as has been said, if we can create unity on our education priorities and proceed on an agreed basis.”

Labour education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said: “The Government’s framework document talks about the possibility of pupils who are transitioning into primary 1 or secondary 1 returning to school for some of June for the school experience. 

“The Government’s suggestion would mean many tens of thousands of pupils going back to school in June. Can the cabinet secretary rule that out or explain how it could be done safely?

But John Swinney said: “If that option were pursued, it would have to be undertaken safely and in a way that was consistent with the health advice that is available to us. I assure Mr Gray that the Government and the Covid-19 education recovery group are following closely the scientific advice that is available to us. The Government regularly receives updated advice and I have shared relevant information on the questions that we are wrestling with about education.”

He added: “Individually, local authorities are taking forward some of those measures to ensure that young people are well supported. I have seen excellent examples of that around the country.

“Schools and local authorities are focusing on individuals who do not have connectivity to make sure that they can access a remote learning approach.

“It is clear that we are going to face disruption to education for some time because of coronavirus and the Government is working with its local authority partners to make sure that young people can access education in the most appropriate way for them and that they can rely on digital connectivity to enable them to sustain their learning.”

Cllr Jonathan McColl nor anyone from SNP in West Dunbartonshire would comment to questions from The Democrat.


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