‘It won’t be straight back to full-time school’

The plan is for Scottish pupils to get back to school full time in August – but that return will have to be staggered, say secondary heads

Emma Seith

‘It won’t be straight back to full time school’

Even if schools reopen full time to pupils after the summer it is unlikely all secondary pupils will be back the first official day of term, Scotland’s secondary school leaders’ body is warning.

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, has warned that the return to school will not mean “every child, in every school, on one day”, as is usually the case at the start of a new school year.

Exactly how the first week back might look was still being worked out, he said in an interview with Tes Scotland, but the return of pupils to secondary would need to be staggered, even if coronavirus had been sufficiently suppressed to allow for a full-time return.

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Schools would need time to grapple with practical considerations such as reconfiguring classrooms that had been set up for two-metre social distancing and getting furniture out of storage – as well as the opportunity to establish whether all staff were able to return – Mr Thewliss said. Schools also needed the space to address issues such as the induction of S1 pupils and – with the exam results due out on 4 August – any changes to senior pupils’ course choices.

Mr Thewliss said: “We want kids back in school – that’s the number-one principle. But we want them back in school when it is safe to do so both for the kids and the staff. If the medical evidence says it is safe for everybody to come back the practicalities start to kick in.

“There will be a significant number of S1s who have never had any kind of serious induction and there will be other bits and pieces related to course changes. The exam results will be out the previous week so schools will be working with kids who want to adjust their course choices because of their results.

“It may also be that schools have serious numbers of staff who are not going to be coming in for good medical reasons. We have got to find that out and organise ourselves.”

Education secretary John Swinney announced last week that schools should prepare for the full time return of pupils in August with no social distancing – just 24 hours before many schools started their summer holiday.

All Scottish schools will be closed for summer by the end of this week and, up until Mr Swinney’s announcement, had been preparing for a return based on two-metre social distancing.

Already there have been calls from teaching unions and Scotland’s primary school leaders’ organisation for the return to school – set for Tuesday 11 August – to be delayed to allow staff to prepare.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of primary school leaders’ body AHDS, said there was now “huge uncertainty” about what 11 August would look like and “a lot of work to be done now to identify that”. However, he added that primary school leaders were “on their knees”.

Mr Thewliss echoed this, saying that secondary school leaders were “absolutely shattered”, with many working non-stop since January.

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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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