Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed that initial estimates show only around 1 per cent of pupils have taken up the childcare places for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
She admitted that the prospect of too many families seeking places had been a cause of concern, and that the government had been worried about the safety of pupils and teachers.
The definition of "key workers" and exactly how many pupils and teachers should continue to attend school have been hotly disputed topics since the Scottish government decided to close schools to slow down the spread of coronavirus at the end of last week.
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Last night, new rules were published by the Scottish government and local authorities body Cosla, and again the government stressed that childcare places “must be kept to an absolute minimum”.
The first minister said in a briefing on the coronavirus outbreak this afternoon: “Last week, we announced school closures and said that only vulnerable children and children of key workers would get a place in childcare. At that time we were, I can tell you, deeply worried that the numbers seeking places would mean that we would find it difficult to stay within the health guidance. We were worried, therefore, about the safety of pupils and teachers.
“So we asked people to be creative in finding solutions without using a childcare place and asked people to help us keep them and their children safe and the result of that has been extremely positive. Initial estimates, and I would stress initial estimates – this number will doubtless grow a bit as the days and weeks pass – but initial estimates show that there are only around 1 per cent of people who have taken up the extra childcare places. That is, I think, good news.”
Social distancing in full force ahead of Nicola Sturgeon's coronavirus update pic.twitter.com/EzcorKcJFi— Tom Eden (@TomEden11) March 25, 2020
Ms Sturgeon also highlighted the support and resources available via the Young Scot website for pupils who were finding it “a bit tougher to stay at home and off school” than they had been anticipating.
When it came to supporting parents who were homeschooling or simply trying to keep children entertained, she highlighted the Scottish government’s Parent Club website, as well as Parentline – run by Children 1st – for “emotional and practical support”.