Scotland

Coronavirus: School return plans to be scrutinised by inspectors

children social distancing at school

Scotland's schools' inspectorate will scrutinise council plans for how many pupils can return to face-to-face teaching in August.

Schools are due to re-open from 11 August with a "blended" mix of in-person teaching and at-home learning.

There has been criticism that some councils will only have a third of children in school at any time.

Education Secretary John Swinney promised parents these plans would be thoroughly reviewed.

The deputy first minister said Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) would look at proposals put forward by local councils.

Speaking to about 4,000 people in a National Parent Forum of Scotland Zoom call, Mr Swinney said a return to full time schooling would take place "at the earliest possible opportunity" but he could not "second guess" when the social distancing guidelines might change to allow this.

He said: "One of the key constraints is the availability of space, the other is the availability of teaching staff.

"That detailed work is going on school by school, and what I have asked HMIE to do is review all of those plans to make sure they satisfy the terms we have agreed with the education recovery group about the need to maximise the learning opportunities for children and young people in formal face-to-face schooling."

Mr Swinney said the plans would face further scrutiny if "we don't believe they deliver a fair and appropriate level of education."

The deputy first minister also said "we plan that the 2021 exams will go ahead" when quizzed on doubts over next term's schedule for older pupils.

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Image caption Only a limited number of pupils can be in a classroom to comply with social distancing requirements

On Tuesday, public health expert Prof Devi Sridhar - who sits on the Scottish government's Covid-19 advisory group - suggested on Twitter that if the number of people infected by Covid-19 continues to fall, there could be an early return to normal schooling.

The Scottish government has insisted, however, this can only happen when it is satisfied it is safe to ease restrictions.

The Better Than This campaign group, which is pressing for an increase in face-to-face teaching from August, accused Mr Swinney of passing the buck to councils on the amount of in-school teaching.

A spokesman said: "It's clear from this Zoom call that parents are far from convinced that the Scottish government has control of this.

"We all need far more urgency from the Scottish government, this is a national education emergency.

"Our campaign wants to see urgent action to identify and create more places to learn, more adults to help teach, and more national resources for parents and teachers."

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