Coronavirus: Education boss flags safeguarding concerns

But as long as schools are open vulnerable pupils are ‘well-fed and warm and secure’, says Glasgow director of education

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Is it really safe to reopen schools?

Glasgow education director Maureen McKenna is concerned about “the safeguarding of our children and young people” should schools close.

“We have a number of vulnerable families in our city who are already under strain in terms of their financial predicament,” said Ms McKenna, whose local authority is the largest in Scotland.

“I’m concerned about hearing stories of zero-hour contracts, people not being paid. If [children] are coming into school at least they are going to be well-fed and warm and secure.”

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Ms McKenna stressed that she is not a scientist or medical practitioner, so is in no position to comment on whether the government’s decision to keep schools open is contradictory, given the advice it has also issued on social distancing.

Coronavirus and schools

However, she pointed out that online learning could not be relied upon as a means of reaching all pupils because not all families have internet access, whilst others are on expensive pay-as-you-go tariffs.

She suggested that – in the event of mass closures – “a range of options” would have to be looked at, including schools remaining open for “a small number of pupils”.

“Digital solutions might work for some people but they are not the absolute answer so we are looking at a range of options we could have to provide those safe, secure, warm environments also in line with the government’s advice about social distancing.

“Schools are big places. If we could have a small number of young people who could come in and socially distance, be kept warm, fed and be able to study then wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

Ms McKenna made her comments during an interview on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme today.

She also said that attendance levels in Glasgow schools were “low” and that she herself might have to dust off her General Teaching Council for Scotland registration – she is a former maths teacher – if staffing levels in schools continued to fall.

“I’ve already planned to do supported study with Castlemilk High during the Easter term to support them...We will go out supporting schools wherever we can.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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