Return to school 'a logistical nightmare' for teachers

With the mid-term break – and government guidance yet to be published – some schools will have three days to plan

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Reopening schools ‘is a logistical nightmare’, warn staff

Scottish pupils are set to begin returning to school on Monday 22 February, but some secondary staff say they have not been able to plan because of a lack of detailed guidance from the Scottish government.

On Tuesday 2 February, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish government was planning for P1-3 pupils to return full-time on 22 February, while some senior secondary students would return part-time to complete “practical work that is necessary for the completion of national qualification courses”.

However, the Scottish government has confirmed it will not be until tomorrow – more than a week after Ms Sturgeon’s announcement – that secondaries will receive the detailed Education Scotland guidance on the subjects this includes.

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A further obstacle to preparations is the February break: some local authorities in the west have already had their mid-term holiday but in some parts of Scotland, including Edinburgh, schools will be off on holiday when the guidance is published tomorrow.

Coronavirus: Fears over time to plan for schools reopening

In some areas this means there will be as little as three working days to plan for the safe return of pupils.

When the changes come in – something which the Scottish government is expected to confirm on Tuesday – headteachers say they are going to be expected to run three schools: one providing online learning; one providing childcare for vulnerable pupils and key workers' children; and another providing face-to-face teaching for those included in the first wave of returns.

They say they need more staff and support, with primary teachers raising the question of how staff with composite classes that include pupils in upper and lower primary are going to provide face-to-face teaching and online learning.

In secondary – because social distancing of two metres will be in place – fewer students will be able to attend at any one time. One design and technology teacher told Tes Scotland that this would mean five pupils in a workshop, with the result that one practical class of 20 pupils becomes four classes.

A secondary headteacher also raised this issue, saying that practical classes would need to be split to allow for social distancing. He described the return as “a logistical nightmare”.

School staff are also concerned about childcare, given that they could be returning to school full-time while their children continue to be at home for school.

A Scottish government spokesperson confirmed that the guidance on the planned phased return of students in S4-6 is due to be published tomorrow. She said that when the guidance was published, councils and schools could then implement it to best suit their local circumstances.

She added: “We are indebted to teachers for their hard work during this crisis and, through the [Covid-19] Education Recovery Group, we continue to meet regularly with teachers’ representatives and to discuss with them how best we can support our school staff.”

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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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