Swinney admits 'anxiety' about reopening schools

'We know that there are going to be incidents of Covid-19 in our schools,' says local authorities' leader

Henry Hepburn

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Scotland's education secretary, John Swinney, has spoken today about his "anxiety" over the planned reopening of the country's schools in a little over two weeks' time.

At the same meeting, a local authorities' leader warned that it is inevitable there will be cases of Covid-19 in schools.

Mr Swinney, who will this Thursday make a definitive statement about whether and how schools will reopen from 11 August, said: "I have some anxiety about the reopening of schools because of the degree of change this represents."

That was echoed by Stephen McCabe, children and young people spokesperson for local authorities' body Cosla, who said there was a "lot of anxiety out in the school communities".


Also today: Improving schools could be ‘undermined’ on results day

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Mr McCabe also said: "We know that there are going to be incidents of Covid-19 in our schools."

Coronavirus: Concerns about reopening schools

He stressed said that education directors were "confident" schools would be ready for full-time learning in August, but said that would not be a return to the pre-Covid-19 definition of "normal" in schools. He added that the "new normal may be with us for a considerable period of time".

 

Meanwhile, Mr Swinney, who is also deputy first minister, said that "we are at a relatively early stage in the understanding of Covid". He added that, in relation to measures to be adopted in schools in 2020-21 to deal with Covid-19, "we have to be prepared to revisit some of our assumptions".

The education secretary said that sample Covid-19 testing would take place in a wide range of schools across Scotland, providing an extra "layer" of testing. When asked by the Greens' Ross Greer if he could guarantee that the school testing regime to be announced later this week will be ready for schools' return on 11 August, Mr Swinney said work was ongoing "at speed" but did not guarantee it.

He also stressed that the reopening of schools on 11 August is an "uppermost priority" for the Scottish government.

 

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said he has heard of one council that will need 165 extra cleaners for schools, and asked how prepared local authorities were for such demands.

Mr McCabe responded that it would be a "huge challenge" to recruit enough cleaners in time, and referred to one council that was advertising for 72 extra daytime cleaners. He added that extra costs for cleaners and other staff, such as facilities management and school transport staff, would be "considerably more" than the £20 million announced by the Scottish government last week for such areas.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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