Pupils to return to school from August 11

The First Minister has confirmed pupils will return to school on August 11, with quick access to testing and surveillance to help ensure safety.

By Neil McGrory, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 30th July 2020, 3:10 pm
The return to education will also be supported with a £30 million teacher recruitment drive.
The return to education will also be supported with a £30 million teacher recruitment drive.

The return to education will also be supported with a £30 million teacher recruitment drive, bringing the total government investment to £75m – enough to recruit 1400 new teachers.

Another fund, now increased to £50m, will help local authorities deal with the expenses incurred with additional cleaning, management of school buildings, transport and other issues.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that Scotland would remain in Phase 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Other facilities which remain closed, including gyms, swimming pools and sports halls, will be reviewed every three weeks to establish whether plans to reopen them can be brought forward.

The First Minister also confirmed that shielding guidance will be paused from Saturday, August 1, allowing those who have been shielding to follow the advice for the general public.

The First Minister said: “In many ways, Scotland is in a better position in relation to Covid than I would have dared hope a few weeks ago. But this position is fragile.

“If we are not careful now, then in two or three weeks we could easily be facing some of the issues here in Scotland that we are currently seeing around the world.

“The two changes I have announced – on schools and shielding – are very significant, and we need to see if there has been any impact from changes that have already taken place. It is important, in particular, that we allow the impact of re-opening our schools to be assessed before we proceed with further major changes.

“Caution remains essential. We want to open up society and the economy as soon as we safely can, but we do not want to have to re-impose restrictions. That start-stop pattern seen in other countries is potentially more harmful to the economy, and our health and wellbeing.

“Do not drop your guard now. Every single time one of us breaches the rules, we give the virus a chance to spread. If we allow complacency to creep in now, it will – without exaggeration – be deadly.”

The Scottish Trade Unions Congress has called for authorities to heed the advice of teachers and other education workers to ensure schools are safe.

STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: “Schools re-opening full-time is an enormous step which requires continuing suppression of the virus across communities, the full implementation of safety guidance and a proactive testing regime.

“We support the call of education unions to ensure that smaller class groupings are the norm with sufficient resources ploughed into schools to ensure this can happen.

“Despite the correct decision not to move into Phase 4, it is vital that we recognise that school re-opening coincides with a wider return to work under phase 3 and that pressures on school and public transport must be carefully monitored.

“Government and local authorities will need to listen carefully to staff across the whole school community as they strive to maintain a safe environment, allay the fears of pupils and parents and provide a positive education experience in these abnormal times.”

Teaching union The Educational Institute of Scotland has also warned against complacency.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The decision of the Scottish Government to reopen schools with a full pupil return is predicated on the current successful suppression of the virus but as we are seeing in parts of Europe, that situation can change quite quickly. Even with full implementation of the guidelines and its mitigations, many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom.

“The EIS believes more could be done to reassure school communities around safety if smaller classes were introduced as the norm, employing the many unemployed teachers currently seeking work. The additional funding announced is welcome, therefore, but this needs to translate into smaller class grouping to support physical distancing amongst pupils.

“Smaller classes would also provide real extra support to pupils, who we know will have suffered emotionally as well as educationally as a result of lockdown. Reopening schools is only the start of education recovery.

“The EIS will be insistent that the broader mitigations proposed are implemented rigorously, particularly physical distancing between staff and pupils, which will have significant pedagogical implications. It certainly will not be ‘business as normal’. We will be seeking, also, further reassurances from the Scottish Government on proactive testing and monitoring of the school estate.”