Pupils to return full-time in August if virus suppressed

Pupils might not have to socially distance when they return to schools on August 11.

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Scottish pupils could be able to return to schools full-time on August 11 provided the virus continues to be suppressed, John Swinney has said.

Addressing MSPs on plans for the country’s children, the education secretary said infection rates would have to be low and testing robust for this to happen.

But he said a full-time return after the summer holidays is now the Scottish Government’s central planning assumption.

The minister also made clear the assumption is full-time education would not entail any social distancing within schools.

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Swinney stressed a “blended learning” model – where students divide their time between classes and home schooling – remains “a contingency that we may still need to enact”.

The education secretary also pledged £100m of funding over the next two years to support the return to school and help children catch up.

Part of this funding will go towards recruitment, including securing employment for the next school year for every probationer teacher, he said.

Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that schools will be able to reopen to all pupils from August 11 so long as the spread of the disease “is sufficiently low to provide assurance that we can continue to control the virus”.

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Blended learning will only be implemented as a back-up plan if it is deemed unsafe for schools to reopen without social distancing.

The education secretary and deputy first ministers said that progress made suppressing the spread of Covid-19 has allowed the government to aim for a return to full-time schooling.

He said: “If we stay on track, if we all continue to do what is right, and if we can further suppress this terrible virus, the government believes that we should prepare for children to be able to return to school full-time in August.

“I must stress, this is the aim that the government is now working towards.

“However, because it has to be achieved safely, it inevitably remains conditional and dependent upon ongoing scientific and health advice.”