Swinney: Scottish schools still safe to open this week

The 'highest priority' is still 'maintaining school education', says deputy first minister and education secretary
21st December 2020, 10:17am
Henry Hepburn

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Swinney: Scottish schools still safe to open this week

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/swinney-scottish-schools-still-safe-open-week
Coronavirus: It Is Safe For Schools In Scotland To Be Open This Week, Says Education Secretary John Swinney

Scotland's education secretary, John Swinney, has insisted that it is safe for schools to be open this week and that pupils should attend.

He made his comments after a rapid escalation in Scotland's Covid response on Saturday, which means that schools will now not return from the Christmas holidays for most pupils until Monday 11 January. Learning will also take place remotely initially, with a full return to classrooms planned for 18 January.

That led to calls from teaching unions and political opponents at the weekend to close all schools this week. Although schools in some local authorities broke up for Christmas last week, in other areas schools are due to remain open until as late as Wednesday 23 December.

Coronavirus: 'Young people should go to school'

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Mr Swinney, who is also deputy first minister, said that "the government has made it crystal clear since August that our highest priority is to maintain school education for children and young people in Scotland, and that remains our highest priority".


Background: Covid action means delay to January return of schools

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When asked if pupils should still be at school school this week, Mr Swinney replied that they should as "Scotland has, comparatively speaking, very low levels of coronavirus compared to other parts of the UK" and "our schools are safe". He reiterated that "young people should go to school this week".

Earlier this morning, EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan told BBC Radio Scotland: "For those schools that are still open this week, we think remote learning would have been a better option."

Mr Swinney was asked about comments from children's commissioner Bruce Adamson, who raised concerns at the weekend about a "serious risk" to pupils' wellbeing from the delayed start to school in January announced on Saturday.

The education secretary said he shared those concerns, which was why he did not previously change school holidays and had resisted calls to shut all schools this week, as the "loss of schooling...is damaging for children and young people".

Mr Swinney said that the 18 January target for a full return of schools would be reviewed next month.

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