Education Secretary John Swinney has insisted Scotland’s schools are “not a significant area of transmission” for coronavirus – despite union chiefs demanding part-time schooling in areas of Scotland placed under Level 4 restrictions.
Both the EIS and NASUWT teaching unions are calling for blended learning models to be introduced in these areas, with pupils attending classes on some days while learning from home the rest of the week.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Teachers understand the importance of schools to the lives of young people and would wish to see schools open, but not at any cost.”
His comments came after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed 11 council areas, which are home to some two million Scots, would be placed under the strictest coronavirus restrictions from Friday.
The move will shut bars, restaurants and all non-essential shops, with gyms, hairdressers, libraries and visitor attractions also told to close.
But schools, which were closed in the initial Covid-19 lockdown, will be able to stay open, with Mr Swinney insisting “robust” safety measures were in place.
He said that only 0.1% of pupils had tested positive, stating: “Schools are not significant areas for transmission of the virus.”
The Education Secretary told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “All the evidence points to the fact that schools are not contributing significantly to the spread of the virus.
“We have isolated cases in schools which are essentially a product of community transmission, which is then taking those infections into individual schools.”
He insisted that having schools remain open was “absolutely central to the wellbeing of children and young people within our country”.
But Mr Swinney also stressed that “those schools must be safe, they must be organised, they must be following all of the guidance we have in place”.
While he said just 0.1% of pupils had tested positive for Covid-19, he said the rate for teachers varied between 4% and 7%.
Measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus have been “strengthened”, he added, pointing to the recent requirement for pupils in S4 to S6 to wear face coverings in class.
He also insisted there were “robust arrangements” to ensure physical distancing takes place between staff and between students and teachers, and said that the Scottish Government was constantly monitoring schools “to make sure all the appropriate measures have been taking place”.