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Education / Funding announced for extra teachers and health protection measures in schools

John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland NewsEducation secretary John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site in September 2018. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE SCOTTISH Government has pledged extra funding to support schools as they reopen next month.

Education secretary John Swinney said £50 million is being ring-fenced for the recruitment of around 850 extra teachers and 200 additional support staff.

A further £20 million will go to councils to cover additional costs of extra health protection measures in areas like school transport and enhanced cleaning.

A further £3 million will be invested in youth work to support education recovery.

The funding breakdown is part of a £100 million package of support announced in June.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee George Smith said the distribution will be agreed by leaders of local authority body COSLA next week on a formula basis.

The councillor said as a result it was unclear at this stage how much money would be heading to Shetland.

Swinney also said on Thursday that unlike primary schools secondaries would be expected to maintain some form of physical distancing between pupils.

Schools plan to reopen on 11 August, with the Scottish Government due to announce a final decision on the re-opening of schools next Thursday (30 July).

Swinney said: “I want to express my appreciation to parents and carers for their support to young people, to the teaching and wider workforce across Scotland for their efforts to sustain education and to children and young people for their resilience during this difficult period.

“The ring-fenced £50 million funding to recruit more teachers and support staff will enable schools to intensify support for children and young people as they return to full time face-to-face education and help to mitigate for learning loss.

Swinney added that the £20 million funding recognises the “extremely valuable work of our school cleaners, facilities management and school transport staff”.

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer, however, said teachers and parents need more reassurance that a full-time return to schools will be safe.

“The education secretary said again that he is ‘sympathetic’ to the Greens’ proposed regular testing of teachers and confirmed that he will say more on this next week,” he said.

“We know from the failure to quickly deliver routine testing of care home staff that this policy takes time to implement. Time is fast running out to have routine testing ready in time for schools to reopen.”

Greer also said the guidance on social distancing in is now an “unclear fudge”.

“Teachers must keep distant from pupils, primary pupils don’t have to distance themselves, but secondary pupils are to somehow keep a distance at the same as being in full attendance,” he added.

“How this is possible in school buildings which don’t have any more space than they did in March hasn’t been explained.”