Swinney: We want students to be able to go home for Christmas

The education secretary said getting students home to their families at Christmas is 'at the heart of our thinking'.

Swinney: We want students to be able to go home for Christmas Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Campuses: Outbreaks among students around the country.

The education secretary has insisted the Scottish Government’s aim is for students to be able to return home this Christmas.

John Swinney said ensuring the safe return of students to their families for the festive season is “at the heart of our thinking” amid surging coronavirus cases on university campuses.

But this weekend, he urged students – even those who test negative for Covid-19 – to socialise only within their households and not to go out.

Speaking to the BBC, Swinney said students staying in accommodation would minimise Covid’s spread to other parts of the country.

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Reports on Sunday claimed that some living in halls of residence had returned to their family home due to the circumstances.

The education secretary said: “Our advice to students is that they should stay in their halls if they are able to do so and that’s to ensure that we minimise the spread of the virus around the country.

“It’s important that any student that is self-isolating or students in general in the situation that they are facing are given the full and proper support of the college or the university that is supporting them, and that’s an issue that we’ve prioritised in our discussions with universities in the course of the past few days.”

Looking ahead, Swinney said getting students home for Christmas is a “really important” part of the government’s considerations.

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He said: “It’s a bit of time away (Christmas), but it’s an absolute priority for the Scottish Government that first and foremost students are safe and are supported and are able to participate in their education.

“We also want to make sure that students are supported in every aspect of their wellbeing and crucially being able to get back home to families at Christmas time is a really important part of that work and that’s very much at the heart of our thinking.”

On Saturday, Glasgow University announced an increase in the support it would offer students in accommodation, including a refund of one month’s rent and a £50 food payment.

Asked if the Scottish Government would consider funding institutions across the country to bring in similar measures, the education secretary said they would consider any issues raised by universities principals.

Swinney added: “Glasgow University has taken what I think is a bold and very appropriate move in the course of the last 24 hours.”