Schools in Scotland will be able to return on 11th of August with pupils accessing learning full time but only if progress on limiting the spread of Covid19 continues.
If infection rates remain low and if the Test and Protect strategy is working effectively then pupils will be able to enjoy being back at school after the summer holidays.
The announcement by Education Minister in the Scottish Government, John Swinney, today, 23rd of June, is a conditional one and local authorities must also continue to plan for ‘blended learning’ should rates of infection rise again.
Also announced by John Swinney today was an additional £100 million to be invested over the next two years to tackle the impact of lockdown on schools and pupils.
Every current probationer teacher who meets the standard for full registration will also be ensured of having a teaching post for the year ahead.
The importance of digital learning is acknowledged with Education Scotland working with E-Sgoil, the digital training platform, to develop a national e-learning provision for all senior phase pupils to access high quality lessons online learning provided by qualified teachers.
Reaction by politicians has been mixed.
Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray welcoming the announcement said that it was a ‘fine mess’
“There are still more questions than answers. What, if any, social distancing will be required in the classroom? That question wasn’t answered, and indeed on school transport too.
“What protective measures, PPE, deep cleaning, and testing will be required to keep teachers and staff safe?”
Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, SNP, also welcomed the news. She said:
“I’m absolutely delighted by today’s announcement that if we stay on the right path, and continue to suppress this virus, our young people can return to school full time from August.
“This is an important step not only in ensuring our young people get the education they deserve, but it’s also positive news for working families.
“I want to send my gratitude to our amazing teachers and school staff in the Highlands & Islands who have helped us get to this stage, they have done an amazing job in unbelievably difficult circumstances to support home learning.
“Given the potential for absences and even individual school closures over the winter ahead, as local outbreaks are managed, time spent preparing for blended learning will likely turn out to be time well spent.
“If blended learning is required, it will be an improvement and we will have national resources underpinning it.”
John Swinney stressed that it was the desired aim of the Scottish Government to have a return to full time education in August but that ” it has to be achieved safely, it inevitably remains conditional and dependent upon ongoing scientific and health advice.”
The news will be very welcome in Orkney where Leader of OIC, James Stockan, had declared that schools in the islands would not be able to deliver the blended learning as recommended by Scotland’s Education Recovery Group. Blended Schooling “undeliverable and impossible for us to put into practice” in Orkney
John Swinney commended the work local authorities have been doing to deliver schooling, early learning, child care and providing free meals during the lockdown measures.
“I must emphasise the importance of Scotland staying on track if we are to make it a reality.
“We must continue to ensure the safety of pupils, teachers and staff by engaging in such contingency planning, and that is why Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Education will continue with their scrutiny of the plans when the latest versions are submitted by local authorities tomorrow.”