The plan for Scottish schools to return part-time in August is not intended to last “anything like” the entire school year, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon said proposals for “blended learning” – where pupils would divide their time between school and home learning – will not continue “a single second longer than is absolutely necessary”.
School pupils in Scotland are set to begin a new academic year on August 11 with Covid-19 safeguards in place, including attending school in blocks to reduce class numbers and allow for regular deep cleaning.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, the FM said she was focused on ensuring children “do not lose out on education or have their life chances damaged”.
She said she would not rule out opening schools on Saturdays or scrapping further school holidays like the October break to ensure pupils spend enough time in class.
Sturgeon said ministers expected local authorities to put in place arrangements that “absolutely maximise” the amount of time youngsters spend in school.
But it comes after her education secretary John Swinney warned at the weekend that social distancing could remain in place in schools for a “considerable” period of time.
Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government will be scrutinising council plans very closely.
“Where we conclude all possible steps have not been taken to maximise face to face teaching and learning, we will ask councils to reconsider and revise their plans.
“Where there are genuine issues of resources the Scottish Government will work with councils to address those.”
The First Minister continued: “Our aim will be to return to normal schooling as quickly as we possibly can, recognising that along the way we must build the confidence of parents, young people and teachers that schools are safe.
“It is absolutely not the case that we are planning for blended learning, with children learning at home for part of the school week, to last a year or anything like it.
“On the contrary, we do not want blended learning to last a single second longer than is absolutely necessary, so we will be working with councils to return schools to normal as quickly as we can.
“We want young people to be back having face-to-face teaching for 100% of the school week as soon as it is feasible.”
She also stressed it is her government’s intention, as things stand, for next year’s exam diet to go ahead, despite its cancellation this year.
The Scottish Government’s three-weekly review of Covid-19 restrictions will now include specific consideration of the transmission of the virus within schools and between young people, Sturgeon added.
She stated: “Where that suggests that… restrictions can be lifted or eased without putting pupils and teachers at undue risk we will do so.”