Aberdeen’s top education official has declared “the end feels in sight” in the struggle to get all youngsters back in classrooms.
Eleanor Sheppard has told parents that staff are looking forward to welcoming all children back into school buildings fulltime after the Easter holidays – if infection rates can be kept in check.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday announced the next step in the return to schools, revealing the “clear expectation” all secondary school pupils would be back full time after the spring break.
From March 15, all children in primaries four to seven will return to school full-time under phase two of the government’s return to school plan.
The council’s education chief Ms Sheppard said the “significant planning” undertaken ahead of the return of the early years pupils would help in the latest endeavour.
However, given the requirement for 6.5ft physical distancing to be maintained in secondaries, the local authority has room for only a third of pupils to come back a week on Monday – with the “finer details” still to be worked out.
While only the children of key workers and vulnerable families and those needing face-to-face teaching in the run up to certification will be able to attend school at that time, all other pupils will be invited to come in twice before the end of term to reconnect with fellow pupils and teachers and make sense of the current circumstances.
The invitational days will result in school staff being split into three Covid bubbles to limit the chance of transmission – with the number of youngsters congregating at lunchtimes to be policed to keep case numbers down.
Lateral flow testing will still be utilised by staff and some pupils to keep on top of any outbreak.
And a “high priority” is still to be placed on maintaining remote online learning for all other pupils in the meantime.
Ms Sheppard told parents: “We are extremely conscious that it is in our interests to ensure the data available to the Scottish Government supports the fulltime attendance of our children and young people next term and safety remains the highest priority.
“I appreciate how unsettling this period has been for you and your family and know that supporting your children with schoolwork while managing the demands of everyday life during a pandemic has been extremely challenging.
“Staff in schools and I are exceptionally grateful for your continued support.
“The end now feels in sight and we are all very much looking forward to welcoming all of our children back into school buildings on April 12 on a full time basis.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeen councillors have been told of plans to help school leavers this summer adapt to the world of work after coronavirus.
Ms Sheppard is drawing up proposals for “virtual transition opportunities” with select businesses and organisations to ensure worries about what lies ahead dissipate.
The transition programme is in the “very early stages”, though the schools’ chief said she “hopes that the two-day event will help young people see a slightly more optimistic future ahead and alleviate many of the concerns they have”.