SCHOOLS will return full-time in August if Scotland continues to make progress on suppressing COVID-19.
The moves comes after significant progress was made in reducing incidence rates of the virus, putting Scotland on a more positive trajectory than previously expected.
The return to class full-time is conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to control the virus, public health and testing systems being in place and protective measures and risk assessments being done in schools.
Councils will continue to prepare blended learning models as a contingency and these will be scrutinised by HM Inspectors of Education.
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, said: “Since May, because of the efforts of ordinary people to stay at home, Scotland has made significant progress.
“There are now only about 2,000 infectious people in Scotland, a drop of 90 per cent since May.
“If we stay on track, continue to do what is right and can further suppress this terrible virus, we
believe we should prepare for children to return to school full time.
“A return to full time schooling would enhance children’s life chances and start to reverse any damaging impacts of recent months.
“Even with this return, it’s imperative we raise levels of digital inclusion.
“We’ve committed to a digital boost by investing £30m to provide laptops and connectivity solutions for disadvantaged children.
Colin Smyth, South Scotland Labour MSP has described this U-turn as a ‘victory for parents’.
He said: “It’ll be greeted with a sigh of relief by those who have been worried by the government’s handling of their children’s education.
“The news the return to school is based not on new resources for extra teachers and classroom space but on scrapping social distancing for pupils will have many asking why John Swinney claimed days ago that scientific evidence suggested we would need such distancing in schools for a year but now we don’t need it at all.
“There remain no plans for a proper transition for P1 and S1 pupils or how extra support will be given to pupils to help them catch up from weeks of lost work.
“Crucially, the government is silent on what protective measures and testing will be done to keep teachers and other staff safe.”
Before Tuesday’s announcement the E&L Advertiser asked families what they thought about the return to part-time schooling.
Sarah Douglas of Canonbie has two children, one of whom is moving up to Langholm Academy in August.
She said: “I think they need to be back full time. I don’t understand how parents are supposed to work.
“I have managed to juggle running a busy haulage firm while home-schooling an eight-year-old and 11-year-old.
“They need to go back not only for educational purposes but also social. My daughter has not seen any of her friends since March and I feel she has become lonely.
“My son starts S1 and I feel he will struggle because of lack of transition time. They should be in full time and wear masks if need be.
“I’m sorry but, if you can go shopping to IKEA and Primark, it’s safe for children to go back to school.
“I’d like to add that the teachers at Canonbie have been brilliant about online work and knowing the pressures both parents and children are under.”
Erin Couperthwaite of Langholm said it would be better if it was full time but understood why it wasn’t.
“I work in childcare so I’ll struggle with the school/work balance. It’s been hard enough home-schooling and the thought of having to do it for an extra three days a week for the foreseeable is quite disturbing.
“My child has no interest to learn at home and I don’t want her schoolwork to suffer because of this.
“I also have a child in the Academy who has already missed exams this year. I worry what impact her not being at school full time will have on her grades.”