Senior students in Scotland should not be attending school tomorrow to complete coursework, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Tes Scotland had reported today on growing dismay among teachers about the number of staff and students who were expected to be in secondary schools tomorrow.
In a briefing this afternoon, the first minister said: "With immediate effect, no young person with coursework to complete should attend school to do so."
Background: Who's to come to school? What councils say
Earlier today: Coronavirus: Dismay grows over numbers in schools
Coronavirus: Teachers call for clarity over closures
"If coursework can be completed remotely then these arrangements will be put in place by schools.
"The [Scottish Qualifications Authority] chief examiner fully agrees with this public health driven decision, and will set out as soon as possible how the SQA will take account of that in the certification of young people's qualifications and achieve this."
Given Friday’s further restrictions on social distancing we need to take more action to keep numbers in schools to an absolute minimum. S4-6 pupils SHOULD NOT attend school to complete coursework. @sqanews supports this. Grateful to all schools for their support to young people.— John Swinney (@JohnSwinney) March 22, 2020
Earlier today, Tes Scotland reported growing concern about the number of staff and senior students told to be in schools tomorrow, much of it channelled through a petition that is calling for an immediate end to external assessment in Scotland for 2020, which attracted around 1,700 signatures in 24 hours.
In this afternoon's briefing, Ms Sturgeon asked why it had taken so long to underline to schools that taking large numbers of students was "not ideal". Some students had been told attendance was mandatory tomorrow and that it should be considered a normal school day, and that uniform should be worn.
Ms Sturgeon said: "We are closing schools for a health reason. We have made clear that there is still a requirement to look after some children. We considered on the basis of the advice we had last week that that couldn't accommodate young people completing their coursework."
She added, that following advice on Friday around "the acceleration of the spread" which led to the advice to close pubs and restaurants, the same advice had "now informed a change in this advice".
The first minister reiterated that the expert advice was that "the speed at which the virus is spreading has quickened, and therefore we need to do even more to reduce the risk", and that was the reason for advice changing around attendance of senior students at school.
Ms Sturgeon stressed the need to keep numbers as low as possible in places such as schools next week.
She said: "I absolutely understand that lots of businesses and individuals want to be designated key workers, so that their children can be looked after in a formal setting, but we must keep the numbers in those formal settings to a minimum."
On the speed of the virus spreading, chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood said data from England had shown that "we were underestimating the doubling time of the virus, so actually the number of cases was spreading more rapidly than the estimates which have come from China".
The SQA told Tes Scotland that it would not be commenting today but is likely to provide an update tomorrow on what the first minister's statement means in practice.
So very glad to hear this. Otherwise the messages are too mixed about what matters just now. I touched on it this morning. https://t.co/X076aGpPgY. Well done to many including @andrewkbailey13 for helping to make this happen. https://t.co/Yxn9VXSUqc— lenabellina #ubuntu (@lenabellina) March 22, 2020