Picture by Bill Heaney

By Bill Heaney

When are parents going to be allowed to watch their children taking part in school sports on a Saturday morning – or any other day for that matter?

MSP Jeremy Balfour asked the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, to provide an update on when parents will be permitted to attend school sports to watch their children play.

But Ms Somerville, pictured right, told him: “Our priority is keeping children, young people and school staff safe. The guidance on reducing Covid risks in schools is in line with the current advice from the Covid-19 scientific advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues. The sub-group keeps the mitigations in schools and early learning and childcare settings under constant review.

“It considered the issue of parental attendance at school sporting events at its meeting on Tuesday 21 September, and it will provide advice to ministers on that and other issues in due course. We will consider that advice, and we will announce the outcome as soon as possible.”

Jeremy Balfour was not content with her reply. He told the Minister: “I find it incredibly strange that, on Saturday morning, when my girls are playing football, I cannot watch them but, on Saturday afternoon, when we go to the local running club, I am able to go and watch them. Why the difference between a school activity and an activity run by a club? Are parents not entitled to go to both?”

She replied: “That is very much being kept under review, and it has been the subject of a most recent discussion within the scientific advisory sub-group. It was also briefly discussed at the Covid-19 education recovery group—CERG—this morning.

“I absolutely recognise the situation that Jeremy Balfour talks about, and that is exactly why the sub-group has been assessing the evidence. I will consider that evidence in due course, when it is presented to me, and I will of course ensure that we provide an update on it as soon as possible.”

Mr Balfour’s Conservative colleague, Liz Smith, said: “I listened carefully to the reply to Jeremy Balfour. The cabinet secretary will know that I am not the only member who has received, throughout the summer, a considerable number of emails from parents right across Scotland asking what the logic is behind the decision.

“They want to know why they cannot go to watch their youngsters taking part in school matches, when many thousands can attend football matches and last week’s TRNSMT concert. Is there any logic in that decision?”

Shirley-Anne Somerville told her: “We are of course listening carefully to the emails from parents that are coming in to members, and directly to the Government, on the issue. As I said to Jeremy Balfour, that is exactly why the advisory sub-group has been looking at the issue again.

“I hope that the chamber expects me, rightly, to listen carefully to the advice that comes from the advisory sub-group on that and on all other issues. The measures have been kept under review since schools got back.

“We have kept mitigation measures in place to ensure that we were, therefore, allowed to make other changes, for example, around self-isolation, but we are keeping the arrangements under review.

“I have said to Liz Smith and Jeremy Balfour that the matter has been looked at and I assure Liz Smith that, when I have the advice, I will respond to it as expeditiously as I can.”


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