John Swinney's statement on reopening: what we learned

The Scottish government has announced it wants pupils to return full time in August with no distancing. Here’s what we learned

Emma Seith

John Swinney's statement: what we learned

Today, the Scottish education secretary announced that preparations were being made for Scottish pupils to return to school full time as of August.

However, John Swinney also outlined the conditions that would have to be met to enable schools to get back to normal and said he was planning for every probationer teacher “to secure a teaching post for the next school year”.

When it came to the exams, Mr Swinney said that, while the government expected the exams to go ahead next year, they may be delayed by “a matter of weeks” to allow more time for learning and teaching.

Here are key points from Mr Swinney’s statement and the questions that followed:

  • Preparations are being made for pupils to return full time as of 11 August
  • The decision – called the “mother and father of all U-turns” by Scottish Labour – had been made possible, said Mr Swinney, because of the “significant progress” made in suppressing the coronavirus. If that progress continued, he said, the Scottish government expected that by August “we may have successfully achieved, or be well on the way” to phase 4 of its route map for exiting lockdown defined as the virus no longer being considered “a significant threat to public health”.
  • Full reopening assumed there would be no social distancing in place in August “among young people”. Mr Swinney said the government was looking to countries such as the Netherlands, which had successfully restored education.
  • "Blended learning" remains a "contingency" that may yet have to be called upon.
  • Work that had gone into blended learning had been “essential preparation”, said Mr Swinney, because Scotland may yet need to turn to these plans.
  • Councils would be expected to continue to submit their plans for blended learning and these would continue to be scrutinised by education inspectors.
  • Lockdown reviews will take place every three weeks and will include education – so updates will be given on physical distancing in schools and equivalent measures in early learning and childcare.
  • A new subgroup of the government’s scientific advisory group has been created to offer advice “on education and children’s issues” and will report “later this week”.
  • Three conditions that Mr Swinney expects to be in place for the return full time of schools are: sufficiently low infection rate; early warning infrastructure in place, including test and protect; right protective measures and risk assessments in place in schools.
  • £30 million to improve digital connectivity of pupils will still be invested – this should provide digital devices to around 70,000 pupils, with up to 40,000 “connectivity solutions”. 
  • £100 million of new funding over two years has been made available to support the return to school and to help children recover lost ground.
  • That money will be used to help deliver the objective of every probationer teacher securing a teaching post next year.
  • Exams could be “slightly” delayed by “a matter of weeks” to allow more time for learning and teaching, said Mr Swinney – but the government is planning for the exams to go ahead in 2021 and for pupils to have their results in August.
  • For children with additional support needs (ASN), an individual assessment should be made to enable the return to full-time education. For some, that would be “a swift return”, but for others a slower return would be needed, said Mr Swinney.

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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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