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Education / Schools could re-open fully in mid-August if progress against virus continues

The Anderson High School. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE SCOTTISH Government is now aiming for schools to re-open fully on 11 August as a result of the progress made in suppressing coronavirus.

Education secretary John Swinney said on Tuesday that the “picture looks more positive”.

Schools in Scotland were originally planning to re-open on 11 August in a mixture of face-to-face teaching and home learning.

“If we stay on track, if we all continue to do what is right, and if we can further suppress this terrible virus, the government believes that we should prepare for children to be able to return to school full time in August,” he said.

Swinney said blended learning remains a contingency measure if needed.

He told the Scottish Parliament that the speed of decline in coronavirus cases had “surprised us” and stood at only 10 per cent of the number of infections it had been in May.

The intention to return was contingent on a continued suppression of the virus and on the views of scientific and health experts that it was safe to do so.

It did not mean that plans for blended learning would be shelved. If the situation changed for the negative, there could still be a place for some home schooling.

Swinney said: “While the outlook is more positive now, there are no certainties with this virus. If there is an increase in infection rates, if there are outbreaks that require action to control, then this contingency plan could still be required.”

Education inspectors would continue to scrutinise plans for a return to school when the latest versions are submitted by local authorities tomorrow (24 June).

According to Swinney, young people were concerned about school closures and their mental wellbeing, while he said the government would be working in partnership with education authorities for the delivery of the 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare entitlement.

Swinney also made a commitment to “digital inclusion” with £30 million to provide laptops for disadvantaged children and young people. This will include £25 million of funding to enable a roll out of digital devices to school pupils to enable them to study online.

He added that initial estimates from local authorities were that digital devices will be needed for around 70,000 pupils, with up to 40,000 “connectivity solutions” also needed.

The education chief said: “I can also announce today that we will be providing a further £100 million over the next two years to help support the return to school and help children recover any lost ground.

“This new funding will see us invest to tackle the impact of coronavirus in our schools and ensure that children get the support they need.”