Schools such as the Balloch campus for primary pupils and Our Lady and St Patrick’s for secondary are keenly awaiting an announcement about getting back to the classroom. Pictures by Bill Heaney

By Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

I know that a key priority for parents, children and young people is education and early-years services. We confirm that we are planning to allow universities and colleges to have a phased return next term, with a combination of remote learning and some limited on-campus learning.

On schools, early learning and childcare, we have published today the report of the education recovery group, which is chaired by John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, and includes representatives of councils, parent and teacher organisations and trade unions.

Through that approach, we have reached an agreed position that will help us to build confidence among pupils, parents and teachers about a safe return to formal schooling. The report can be read in full on the Scottish Government’s website.

virus paintings from Gemma.jpg 2

Artwork by Gemma Woods Fraser

I stress that all its conclusions are subject to health advice, and to appropriate measures on physical distancing, testing and provision of protective equipment, where required, being in place.

I will summarise the key points. Teachers and other school staff will return during June to prepare classrooms for the new term and a different model of learning.

During June and over the summer, an increased number of children will have access to critical childcare such as has been provided for the children of key workers during lockdown. We will provide, where possible, transition support for children going into primary 1 or moving from primary 7 to secondary school.

From 11 August, all schools will reopen. However, to allow appropriate physical distancing, children will return to a blended model of part-time in-school and part-time at-home learning.

Childminders can reopen during phase 1 and, over the summer, all early-years childcare providers will reopen, subject to necessary health measures.

Capacity will be prioritised for the children of key workers, early learning and childcare entitlement and children who are in need. The Care Inspectorate will provide further guidance, in due course.

The arrangements will not represent a complete return to normality by August, but we judge them to be the most sensible approach that we can plan for at this stage.

To reflect the fact that children will still be doing part of their learning at home, we will invest a further £30 million to provide laptops for disadvantaged children and young people, to enable them to study online.

At this stage, I want to take a moment to say a huge “Thank you” to parents, carers and teachers who are doing so much to ensure that children continue to learn during the lockdown period.

I want also to send a special message to children and young people themselves, on the off-chance that any of you are watching a parliamentary statement. I know how difficult it has been for you not to be at school and with your friends, but you have been magnificent during this lockdown period. From the bottom of my heart, I say “Thank you” to each and every one of you.

As I have briefly summarised the route map. It sketches out, with as much detail as we can provide at this stage, how and in what stages we might move back to some normality, as we continue to live with the virus, which we will have to do for some time to come.

The route map does not yet set definite dates for all phases, because it cannot do so. We know that the virus is, and will remain, unpredictable.

  • The route map to lifting the lockdown indicates when places of worship might reopen, and it makes it clear that while our current guidance on funerals—among the most distressing and heartbreaking rules of the current lockdown—unfortunately remains unchanged for now, we hope to relax it as we move from phase 1 into phase 2.

One comment

  1. Interesting times ahead as to how exactly education will proceed going forward.

    Quite how you schedule school timetables where classes are split into two with the classes then alternately relieving two and a half days at school and then two and a half two and a half at home is but one huge logistical and resourcing challenge.

    But to then have to factor in a social requirement to prioritise maybe one hundred percent attendance for special requirements children like those of key workers, or those from deprived households, is quite another thing altogether, especially since it prioritises school attendance for some at the expense of denial to others. Aside of the logistical nightmare restricting attendance for some , but only some, could be considered unfair.

    But nothing is resolved yet and of course social distancing in one school could be quite different from another. Similarly, the social distancing requirements, and the classrooms for different subjects could be quite different too. Think chemistry in a chemistry focussed classroom, or technical in a technical focussed classroom, or art in an art focussed class room and these are quite different from let us say language classes or maths classes which could be held in sports rooms, common areas, or even dining halls where there is plenty of space to accommodate maybe not just full sized classes but maybe multiple classes.

    Not altogether easy challenges to overcome. Especially when what we are talking about is that of laying down an education for a school child’s future.

    Or what even the end of class stampede so we’ll remembered by many of us at the end of the day. Or corridor discipline as the students move from class to class as periods end and start. Just another logistic to manage. Of course the risk in the Covid 19 is not to the children since they seem impervious to the disease but rather to the teachers who are older, and to the people at home, who in the case of grandparents are older again.

    But maybe we should not worry. Already the political clamour is to get the lockdown lifted, get the economy motoring and decry any politician who wants to ca canny. Indeed, one senior Tory MP sitting on the Treasury committee last week opined that in England at least, that they might need to consider docking teachers wages if they don’t return to school in June. And since all money, or mostly all money comes from the UK treasury, it doesn’t take too much thinking to realise that turning off the monetary support, as recommended by one Iain Duncan Smith who thinks furlough breeds worker laziness is another aspect to this.

    But I digress. Big decisions, big challenges ahead.

    Or like the hordes yesterday, maybe we should all just flock to Portobello Beach to congregate in the sunshine!

Leave a Reply