Councils across the north of Scotland are “preparing vigorously” for the return of pupils to classrooms full-time from next month but are urging caution and “extra vigilance” to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
In Holyrood yesterday, the first minister confirmed schools can reopen from August 11, and that she expects all children to be back in class full-time from August 18 at the very latest.
Local authorities are now busy working with teachers and their local education services to make sure they are prepared for the return to relative normality.
The Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), meanwhile, has warned against complacency and insisted efforts should be made to make the school experience as safe as possible for both pupils and staff.
Councillor John Finlayson, chairman of education at Highland Council, said: “Officers are working to ensure Highland schools meet the government and parents’ expectations on safety measures, such as ventilation, good hygiene practices and improved cleaning regimes.
“We will continue to be guided by Scottish Government advice and have contingency plans in place if we should need them.”
A spokesman for Moray Council said the authority welcomed the news, and would have “enhanced cleaning and mitigation measures in place” at schools.
He added: “We’re now considering the guidance provided to us to allow that safe re-opening, and will communicate with families at the start of next week with the specific details of what this means for them.”
The island councils of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles are all also getting ready to welcome back pupils.
Councillor George Smith, chairman of the education and families committee for Shetland Islands Council, said: “We are really looking forward to our schools reopening after a five-month enforced break.
“I’d like to thank all staff in children’s services for the huge amount of work they have done to make the return to school for our pupils possible and staff across the council who have supported this work. It is much appreciated.”
Aberdeen City Council’s education committee convener John Wheeler said the news would be welcomed by “pupils, parents, carers and the wider city” but it would be important to “continue to carefully manage the way we behave in a community setting to keep COVID-19 at bay”.
“Extra vigilance among staff underpins the approach to the reopening of schools and this will include maintaining records of pupils displaying virus symptoms and asking pupils who have symptoms or have a family member with symptoms to stay home.”
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Even with full implementation of the guidelines and its mitigations, many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom.”
“The EIS will be insistent that the broader mitigations proposed are implemented rigorously, particularly physical distancing between staff and pupils, which will have significant pedagogical implications.
“It certainly will not be business as normal.”