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John Swinney says schools ‘unlikely’ to return to normality for duration of academic year

Education Secretary John Swinney.
Education Secretary John Swinney.

Schools across Scotland are “unlikely” to see a return to normality for the duration of the upcoming school year, the education secretary has said.

John Swinney said he has confidence schools in Scotland will return in a “limited fashion” on August 11 but acknowledged this would depend on the science at the time.

Speaking to BBC Politics Scotland, he said it is “unlikely” that schools will return to normal activity for the duration of the 2020-21 school year, due to a need to maintain social distancing measures for a “considerable time to come”.

He added that the exam diet is being prepared for spring 2021 on the “working assumption” it will take place.

Mr Swinney said: “But we have said to schools to gather evidence on achievements of pupils on an ongoing basis.

“I think it is practical and possible to deliver an exam diet but we need to take into account a number of circumstances.

“It might be possible to start it later on in the year and enable more learning opportunities.”

I think it is practical and possible to deliver an exam diet but we need to take into account a number of circumstances.

Education Secretary John Swinney.

Parents will be legally obliged to send their children to school, should they reopen as planned in August, as will teachers, the education secretary said.

However, teachers in the shielded category for “entirely legitimate health reasons” will not be able to carry out face-to-face teaching and would instead help from home to provide support to schools.

Earlier this week, Mr Swinney said he expects children to spend as close as possible to half their time in school when classes resume in August and a “clear rationale” will be required for any local authorities that fail to meet the target.

He also admitted some pupils may have more “face to face” time with teachers than others when the new “blended” schooling model gets under way.

School pupils have been working from home since lockdown started in March.

Mr Swinney said his government has had the “strongest possible focus” on closing the poverty attainment gap over the last decade.

He added: “I’m very disappointed by what’s happening with coronavirus as inevitably it will make that challenge all the greater.”

 

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