Will the schools go back in August?


Special report by Bill Heaney

The government should employ Kenny Dalglish, who was voted recently as Scotland’s greatest ever international footballer, to be their official spokesperson.

Mr Dalglish, who is infamous for his “maybes aye, maybes no’” responses has been unfailingly uncommitted to answering questions since he was a youngster.

Like him, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, although she does answer questions, has become renowned for her lack of clarity about the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest instance of this came today when the First Minister said schools have been given the go-ahead to reopen from 11 August.

BBC Scotland reported that guidance issued to councils said children should “return to school as quickly and as safely as possible”.

Nicola Sturgeon said she expected all pupils to be back in class full time from 18 August “at the very latest”.

The first minister also announced an end to shielding, but said “minimal” other changes would be made.

She said Scotland could remain in “phase three” of the government’s route map out of lockdown for some time to come.

Ms Sturgeon said “substantial, hard earned” progress had been made in suppressing coronavirus, which would allow schools to reopen in August.

The FM said there was a “moral and educational imperative that we get children back to school as soon as is safely possible”.

Some councils would be allowed to opt for a “phased return over the first few days” of the new term, which begins on 11 August, but the first minister said “we expect all pupils to be at school full time from 18 August at the very latest”.

Here chances of that happening are hanging in the air as a second wave of the virus is reported to be sweeping across Europe.

Guidance issued to councils, including West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute, states that  physical distancing will not be enforced between pupils, although secondary schools will be expected to adjust to the layout of classrooms and the flow in corridors “where possible” to keep older children apart”.

Teachers would be expected to maintain a 2m (6ft 6in) distance where possible, but the wearing of face coverings will not be enforced, with this left vaguely ” to the judgement of individuals” at a time when leadership and guidance are at a premium.

A range of “extra precautions” will also be put in place to help schools operate safely, including extra cleaning – West Dunbarton is said to have employed 55 additional cleaners –  and hand hygiene requirements and “quick access to testing” for anyone who develops symptoms.

Testing has been a hugely contentious issue with everyone from care home workers to people working in the NHS and other key workers.

What was revealed by Mark Daly’s exclusive investigative reporting on BBC Scotland on Tuesday night was damning of the government’s performance.

And this was stood up by the National Statistics Office today (Thursday) when it was revealed that Scotland came only second to England when the number of deaths linked with Covid-19 was published.

The First Minister must now be ready to concede that the Scottish government’s response to the pandemic, which is still ongoing, was both chaotic and shambolic and that large number of people were allowed to die when that should never have happened.

The stories of how some care home residents were treated would make you ashamed to be Scottish.

There will be more on this tonight when it is revealed that petty disagreements between Boris Johnston and Nicola Sturgeon led to a huge shortage of PPE equipment.

This saw both Scotland and England being ripped off for £millions by the Chinese, who are said to have been responsible for the pandemic in the first place.

It clearly demonstrates that the Scottish government, despite its protests that it was, was never remotely ready to deal with the crisis that they said they were, despite the fact that they maintained they were.

It is clear that the devolved NHS may have had the bravest and best people working hard on the front-line, they had been badly let down by the battalions of bureaucrats who impose their will on them day and daily in our hospitals and health centres.

These people are not fit for purpose and should be phased out of the service before there are any more deaths and damage to public health.

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed today that shielding for advice for people who are most at risk from Covid-19 would be paused from 1 August, although she said few other changes could be made immediately.

This means Covid-19 contractors really don’t know whether to stay in or venture out of the house, even to the pub, while this crisis is ongoing.

The FM set out indicative dates for a range of other changes in future, which could see bingo halls, pool halls and funfairs allowed to reopen from 24 August.

Experts say this is highly unlikely, however. That the virus is not party [or indeed sympathetic] to the experts’ and politicians’ projections as to when and when not the lockdown will be lifted.

Swimming pools and indoor gyms may be allowed to resume business from 14 September, and a limited reopening of stadiums for outdoor events may be permitted from that date.

Whether that will happen or not is anyone’s guess, but the hospital passes delivered so far from the government to the public have not been accurate and no way fit for purpose.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I know how difficult this situation is for those sectors and activities who are facing a long wait before they can resume.

“We do not take these decisions lightly – but at present, we are not confident that we can restart all of these activities safely within a shorter timescale. Doing so could risk a resurgence of the virus and undermine our ability to get children back to school.”

With that the FM has confirmed that she is the one who has taken the decisions to lockdown early and lift the sanctions too late – and this has led to the calamitous situation in which Scotland now finds itself.

So, did you do it, Nicola?

The answer for “maybe’s aye” at this stage of the game is probably an odds-on certainty.

And the answer to the question: “Will the schools go back on August 11 or 18th?”

The answer to that one at this stage is most probably: “Maybe’s naw.”

One comment

  1. Is it going to rain on the 11th of August?

    No maybes aye, maybes naw, we need an answer. And so it is with matters COVID with the announcement that it is expected that schools will reopen across Scotland between the 11th and 18th August.

    The pubs are open. The shops are open. So why not schools. Or should we close them down and all go to the pub. No I don’t think so.because medical monitoring indicates that it is safe for schools to return. But like all things that could change.

    Virus laden people returning from holidays in Spain or the USA, tourists visiting to eat and drink in our local hostelries, the lack of continued adherence to safe practices, these things could all change things. But based upon the phased return to a new normal it does look like the lockdown has been successful.

    So again, will the schools open on the 11th August. I hope so and I’m sure they will if it is safe to do so.

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