Councils across the north-east and north of Scotland have vowed to do all they can to ensure “no child is left behind” after the first minister confirmed schools will be shut to the majority of pupils until February.
As families across the country prepare to return to remote learning at home, education chiefs are all working hard on plans to aid young people in their studies.
Councillor Gillian Owen, the chairwoman of education and children’s services for Aberdeenshire Council, said: “The decision announced by Nicola Sturgeon will obviously concern many parents, but throughout the course of this week our teachers and other staff will be rolling-out plans for home learning to be effective from Monday, January 11.
“We had contingency plans in place for August and these will be updated and used to support home learning.
“Some staff will also be in schools to work with the children of keyworkers and vulnerable children and young people.
“If parents have concerns about their own children over the weeks ahead, they should inform their own head teacher who will do all they can to support as they always do.
“We have very committed head teachers and staff across our schools in Aberdeenshire who will do all they can to provide resources and support to parents and young people.”
Mrs Owen has also called for school staff to be vaccinated as a priority to support the return to school.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wants school staff to be “vaccinated as quickly as possible” – but not at the expense of those deemed clinically most at risk from the virus.
In response to a question from Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie about the potential for teachers to be vaccinated before the Scottish Government reviews its school closure policy, the first minister said: “Vaccinating teachers and school staff would allow us to give that greater assurance to teachers in the determination to get schools open.
“But we have very clear expert clinical advice about the need to prioritise those who are clinically most at risk of getting ill and dying from this virus and ethically we have a duty to make sure that we use the supplies we have to do that first.”
The Highland Council’s education committee chairman, John Finlayson, believes the authority is well prepared for what is ahead.
He said: “Highland was well ahead of the game in terms of blended and online learning, so we just need to make sure we have plans in place that are well communicated to parents, schools and young people.
“During this week, we will be planning what will happen from the start of next week.
“We’ve got our young people set up with Chromebooks, so it’s not going to be a huge issue for us, but clearly we would still prefer to have our young people in school.”
Douglas Lumsden, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said he “wasn’t surprised” by yesterday’s announcements.
He said Aberdeen City Council will endeavour to support pupils, families and teachers while schools are shut to most youngsters and learning is carried out at home.
“A lot of pupils will be fine with this, but there could be pupils from more deprived areas who could end up not be doing any learning at all because of this, “he said.
“I’m concerned about the impact on the attainment gap this measure may have, but I understand why it has been taken.
“We just have to make sure we do as much as we can to make sure no child is left behind while we’re in this state of learning.
“We’ve made sure we’ve got plenty of Chromebooks and wifi dongles out to children that need it and we’ve already had an extra day off for teachers to get ready for more distance learning.
“We will give our teaching staff any support they need to ensure education is delivered to the best of our ability at this time.”