Schools aim to reopen full-time after government u-turn

After weeks of dithering and confused messages the Scottish Government has announced plans for schools to reopen full-time in August.

Primary classroom

Schools are now expected to return full-time in August

Less than two weeks ago Education Secretary John Swinney made the prediction that schools were ‘unlikely’ to return to normal next year, even raising the possibility that exams may be moved into the summer, assuming they took place at all.

Instead of full-time attendance at school, pupils would be expected to attend part-time, to enable social distancing, and work online the rest of the time in a model that was dubbed ‘blended learning’.

This was not the news parents wanted to hear, fearful that it would seriously harm their children’s education, and also make it harder for parents to return to work if their children were expected to be at home for parts of the school week. 

We all want to see schools return as soon and as safely as possible but the Scottish Government’s handling of this has been totally shambolic.

Cllr Lynsey Hamilton

Fears were also raised that the most socially disadvantaged children would be hardest hit by these measures, further widening the attainment gap the SNP government had pledged to narrow.

Consequently, a mere day after Swinney’s pessimistic prediction, Nicola Sturgeon stepped into the fray saying that ‘blended learning’ wouldn’t last the whole year.

But we were far from the end of developments and within a few days Professor Devi Sridhar, a public health specialist at Edinburgh University and a member of the Scottish Government’s covid-19 advisory group, tweeted that “If COVID-19 numbers can be brought low enough in Scotland by 11 August (under 20 confirmed cases) & with appropriate ‘test and protect’ policies, my personal view is that schools should re-open as normally as possible (kids back full-time & able to play/interact together).”

The government said it would listen, but as the end of term approached local authorities were told to keep working on ‘blended learning’ models and only a few days ago many parents received letters from schools telling them how a part-time timetable would operate next year.

And then yesterday (24th June), just a day before the end of the current school term, John Swinney handed in his homework at the last minute, announcing that schools would indeed return as normal in August, with no social distancing between pupils.

Lynsey Hamilton

Councillor Lynsey Hamilton is South Lanarkshire Labour Spokesperson for Education

Responding to the Scottish Government’s last minute U-turn on the return of full-time education, Councillor Lynsey Hamilton, South Lanarkshire Labour Spokesperson for Education, said:

Less than a fortnight ago John Swinney was adamant that part-time learning would be with us for a full year. Now, on the last week of the school term, he’s U-turned entirely.

We all want to see schools return as soon and as safely as possible but the Scottish Government’s handling of this has been totally shambolic. Families have received letters from Education departments informing them of arrangements for the new school year that John Swinney was insisting for weeks should be put in place and now wants scrapped.

Labour are all for getting children safely back to school. We’ve been consistent in calling for a routemap to take schools out of lockdown. John Swinney has told us now that schools are going back in August but he’s got no plan to make it happen.

I have every confidence that our teachers and council workers will do all they can to restart schools safely, not because of the leadership of John Swinney, but in spite of it. These U-turns and mixed messages are chaotic and they’re just making the jobs of teachers and frontline workers even harder.


24 June 2020

Posted by HLSLabour

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