Coronavirus: ‘Path still not clear’ for Scottish schools to reopen

2 weeks ago

“The path is still not clear” for pupils to return to school in August, a parents’ association has warned.

It said a “blended learning” approach – where children split time between home and in-school learning – would “fall to bits” if employers and parents were not on board.

It comes as teachers’ union, the EIS warned that schools would need time to prepare for August’s reopening.

The Scottish government said it would get schools back as early as was safe.

Eileen Prior, the executive director of the parents’ association Connect, said while most parents would be glad that the end of lockdown was in sight, there were still many questions to be answered.

“Parents have been extremely stretched over the last few months…. [home schooling] while coping with work, potentially financial stress, illness, and just the whole stress around the pandemic.

“I think most parents will be glad that an end is in sight, and that we’re beginning to talk about children returning to what for them is normality.

“However, the path is still not clear.”

Ms Prior told Good Morning Scotland: “Part-time opening, whatever form that takes, is likely to create struggles for families and there are long term impacts of this.”

She appealed to the Scottish government to talk to parents and employers, “because if this doesn’t work for parents in terms of their lives and the requirements of their employers to get back to work then it will fall to bits.”

Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, also has concerns.

Its general secretary Larry Flanagan said it was “critical” to the timetable set out by the Scottish government on Thursday that it was safe for teachers to return to schools in June so that they had time to prepare.

He added that it should be stressed that pupils could only return to school in August if public health conditions allowed.

Mr Flanagan added that the change to “blended learning” represented the biggest challenge teachers had faced in 30 years.

“Time is very short”, he warned.

“If pupils are attending school for less than half the week, there’s going to have to be a very strong offer in terms of the remote learning to make sure they are kept on track”, Mr Flanagan said.

Also speaking on Radio Scotland, Education Secretary John Swinney said the government had a plan that was “anchored” on ensuring there was a safe return to formal education.

Mr Swinney said scientific advice to the government was that physical distancing within schools would have to be observed when school returned.

“We have to reduce the number of pupils that can be in school at any one time, which is why we’ve opted for the model of ‘blended learning’ between in-school and at-home learning.”

‘Not returning to normal’

He said this model would enable all young people to have access to formal schooling, while sticking to the health and scientific advice.

Mr Swinney also acknowledged that there had been variation between local authorities across Scotland.

But, he said he was “satisfied” that in the “overwhelming majority of cases” that teachers had quickly adapted to demands of online learning and that many parents had made a “huge commitment” to sustaining their children’s education during the pandemic.

In response to questions about parents could return to work if their children had to stay at home, Mr Swinney said: “We are not going to return to a pre-Covid normal”, adding that the government’s plans were predicated on a lot of people continuing to work from home.

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