Coronavirus: Schools close in bid to limit virus spread

School childrenImage source, Getty Images

Every school in Scotland has closed as part of a radical effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Many pupils may not return to the classroom until after the summer holidays, ministers have warned.

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers like NHS staff will continue to be supported.

All Scottish exams have also been cancelled in an unprecedented move designed to help suppress the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Many parents now face juggling childcare with working from home as social distancing measures are ramped up.

They have been asked not to let grandparents aged over 70 look after the children, as they could be vulnerable to the virus.

At Holyrood on Tuesday, Education Secretary John Swinney said parents were "not expected to be a teacher or to recreate the school day".

Coronavirus cases in Scotland. .  .

He said advice and resources would be available from schools and he urged teachers to use "imaginative, creative and stimulating ways" to encourage pupils' learning at home.

He told MSPs: "We want local authorities and teachers to do all that they can to ensure educational continuity for our children and young people, with a particular focus on secondary 4 to secondary 6 pupils who need to complete coursework for national qualifications.

"Teachers can provide educational continuity for children in the broad general education in a variety of ways, for example through setting weekly learning tasks and emailing those to families where possible, or by using the Glow website [the schools' national intranet] and other online learning platforms."

Mr Swinney said it was important that vulnerable pupils were not "cut adrift" and key workers' families had access to childcare.

He said the Scottish government was working with local authorities to ensure they were able to support them with childcare and free school meals.

A total of 322 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Scotland and six people have died with the disease.

The closure of schools and nurseries was announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday.

She said the decision was driven by scientific advice and because staff absences made it difficult for some schools to continue.

It is among a range of drastic actions outlined by the UK and Scottish governments designed to minimise the spread of the disease.

Most people who contract the virus will suffer only mild symptoms - a fever and a cough.

But older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to become severely ill.