Both primary and secondary pupils should be able to return to school full-time next month, education secretary John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament this afternoon – although the final decision will not be made until next week.
However, concerns about Covid-19 transmission in secondary schools means that extra measures may be required in secondary schools, such as "managing the flow" of staff and students in school corridors, and rearranging the layout of classrooms.
Mr Swinney also outlined a series of health measures in school, such as quick access to Covid-19 testing for symptomatic staff.
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A final decision on the reopening of schools will be made by the Cabinet on Wednesday 29 July and set out to the Scottish Parliament the following day.
Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene criticised Mr Swinney for not making a definitive statement on reopening schools until next week.
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In response, Mr Swinney said that all local authorities will be opening their schools on 11 August, but that it was up to them to assess exactly when every pupil should return.
Restaurants, churches, hotels and even pubs are open in Scotland, but the Education Secretary needs more time to decide whether schools can reopen? So much for being his number one priority. pic.twitter.com/5dG165QAII— Jamie Greene MSP (@jamiegreeneUK) July 23, 2020
Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the announcement of extra school staff – at a cost of £50 million – amounted to less than half a staff member per school.
He called for a drive to recruit "every available qualified teacher we can".
£50 million ring fenced for recruitment of additional school staff - expect 850 extra teachers and 200 support staff— Emma Seith (@Emma_Seith) July 23, 2020
When asked about face coverings in schools, Mr Swinney said that staff and pupils should be free to wear them if they choose to. However, he added that the scientific evidence showed that face coverings should not be mandatory.
The education secretary also announced that £20 million would be allocated to councils for "additional costs associated with new health protection measures, school transport, enhanced cleaning and other essential logistical issues". Another £3 million will go to youth work, "to support education recovery".
Being asked if additional teachers announced today will cover number shielding - @JohnSwinney saying expectation is shielding will be “paused” at the end of the month— Emma Seith (@Emma_Seith) July 23, 2020
Mr Swinney, who is also deputy first minister, said: "All of the school workforce have a crucial role to play in our education recovery mission, and it is vital that they are supported to do so. The ring-fenced £50 million funding to recruit more teachers and support staff will enable schools to intensify support for children and young people as they return to full-time, face-to-face education and help to mitigate for learning loss. The final numbers will be dependent on the precise mix of staff recruited and the needs of children and young people.
"The £20 million funding recognises the extremely valuable work of our school cleaners, facilities management and school transport staff, who are essential to the successful delivery of education in Scotland and to whom I want to pay tribute today."
Will after school clubs open - “ideally yes” says @JohnSwinney . Breakfast clubs should be a priority, he adds, but some after school clubs may have to wait longer. Priority is restarting mainstream education— Emma Seith (@Emma_Seith) July 23, 2020
EIS union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The confirmation of ring-fenced funding to support the recruitment of an additional 850 teachers is a welcome step in the support required for educational recovery in schools across Scotland.
"It is essential that local authorities make use of this funding to recruit more teachers from all those currently available and seeking work – including newly qualified teachers, recently qualified teachers and teachers on supply and temporary contracts. The EIS would urge the Scottish government to clarify that this additional funding is open to employ qualified teachers from all of these categories."
Mr Flanagan added: "Clearly, with less than three weeks until schools are set to reopen, it is vital that local authorities act quickly to ensure that the promised additional teachers and support staff are recruited prior to the start of term."
Local authorities' body Cosla said it was "pleased we are close to agreement with the Scottish government on an additional £50 million to be invested in teachers and classroom support".
However, it added that the £20 million for other costs was "a disappointment".
Cosla said: "We are currently awaiting updated guidance. As such, it is not clear at this time what the additional costs for classroom cleaning, supporting vulnerable pupils, providing school meals, school transport and PPE [personal protective equipment] are, or if vital resources can be found before schools return.
"Today’s announcement throws up a considerable roadblock on the progress towards schools reopening safely, and presents significant additional financial risks for councils."