Scotland

Coronavirus: No automatic closure for Covid-19 schools

School pupil Image copyright Getty Images

Schools will not automatically close if a pupil tests positive for coronavirus, the deputy first minister has said.

John Swinney said the 'test and protect' tracing system would kick in first with "proportionate measures" taken to break community transmission of the virus.

Mr Swinney insisted the Scottish government's plan was to proceed "with a great degree of caution and care".

Scotland's schools will reopen full-time from 11 August.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland, Mr Swinney said it was not the case that schools would automatically close if there was a coronavirus case.

He said: "If a pupil tests positive, then the test and protect system would move in immediately and take proportionate measures in consultation with the school, and the active collaboration of the local authority, and try to break the chain of transmission."

Asked about comments on social media from teachers concerned about the potential spread of coronavirus in schools, he said: "I understand the anxieties that members of the teaching profession will have.

"That's why we've taken such care to gather the evidence. We established a specific expert group to look at all of these questions and to provide us with clinical advice.

"And the guidance that we published yesterday reflects that clinical advice, which is that it is safe to resume full-time schooling as long as we put in place a number of mitigating measures."

He said these included avoiding assemblies or large gatherings of young people, ensuring hand hygiene and maintaining physical distance between teachers and pupils in the classroom.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon have said "extra precautions" will be put in place

Guidance issued to councils says physical distancing will not be enforced between pupils, although secondary schools will be expected to adjust the layout of classrooms and the flow in corridors "where possible" to encourage older children to keep apart.

Teachers will be expected to maintain a two metre (6ft 6in) distance where possible, but the wearing of face coverings will not be enforced, with this "left to the judgement of individuals".

Risks involved

The EIS teaching union has said "many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom", calling for more to be done to "reassure school communities around safety".

Mr Swinney said: "I'm not going to try to suggest that there are no risks in this, but we have to balance that risk with the risk of loss of educational opportunity and the support for the wellbeing of young people of being away from school since March."

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