Scotland

Schools will be part-time 'only for as long as required'

Boy working at home Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pupils will work at school some of the time and at home for the rest of the time

Children will be at school part-time "as long as required but not a moment longer" according to the Education Secretary John Swinney.

Pupils across Scotland are expected to return to school from 11 August.

Initially they will only be in the class part-time so they will also be working from home in a "blended learning" model.

Mr Swinney said he took the view that the date of 11 August was set in stone as long as it was safe.

'Negative effect'

In a statement to MSPs, which he delivered remotely over the internet, he said: "School closures are considered to have a negative effect on all aspects of children and young people's progress and development, as well as their wellbeing.

"That is why we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date it is safe to do so.

"The scientific evidence and advice is an important part of that decision, alongside consideration of the other harms caused by ongoing restrictions. That is why I have published a summary of the scientific evidence which has informed our discussions and decisions to date."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Social distancing will have to be observed in school buildings

He said that the evidence around coronavirus in general, and relating to children in particular, was continuing to evolve.

He said: "Some aspects are not yet well understood - the science cannot in many cases provide us with definitive conclusions."

Blended learning involves children being in school part-time and working from home the rest of the time - often, but not always, doing their work online.

Social distancing

It is needed because schools and classrooms would not be able to accommodate the normal number of students because of social distancing.

Councils are looking at a number of options which include:

  • Pupils going to school at different times. For example, some might go in the morning and others in the afternoon.
  • Using other suitable buildings - such as community centres or libraries - as classrooms.

The government expects all schools to reopen on 11 August. However BBC Scotland understands some pupils will not go back on that day in practice because of training days and the measures to ensure social distancing.

In some parts of the country where schools were originally scheduled to reopen later, councils have still to discuss the implications of changing the date. However the expectation is that they will make the necessary changes to holiday dates.

The government says its plans are contingent on scientific and medical advice that it is safe to proceed and public health measures, such as Test and Protect, being in place.

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Image caption The SSTA wants next year's exams to be cancelled as well as this year's

The paper published today highlights:

  • Growing evidence that the susceptibility to clinical disease of younger children is lower than for adults
  • Generally good evidence that the severity of disease in children is lower than in adults
  • The majority view of the chief medical officer's advisory group that actions to support distancing guidance in schools where children are in indoor environments for extended periods of time would be appropriate, while a minority believed schools could operate without distancing

In response to a question from the Scottish Conservatives Education Spokesman Jamie Greene, Mr Swinney would not explicitly rule out the possibility of next year's exam diet being cancelled.

This year, the exams were cancelled for the first time since official qualifications were introduced in Scotland in the late 19th Century.

Mr Swinney said next year's exam diet was currently being planned. He said the qualifications agency the SQA would give advice on the importance of capturing evidence in any certification process in 2021.

The SSTA union wants next year's exams called off. One reason for this is that it fears it may be impossible to complete courses.

Some have also expressed concern about young people who do not have access to computers at home or unlimited internet access.

The government announced plans last week to distribute 25,000 laptops.

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