Coronavirus: Christmas school holidays could be extended

Council leaders discussing whether to standardise the holiday from December 18 to January 11.

Coronavirus: Christmas school holidays could be extended
School pupils might have longer than normal Christmas holidays to look forward to.

The school Christmas holidays in Scotland could be extended further into January after coronavirus rules were relaxed for the festive season.

Council leaders are discussing whether to standardise the break across Scotland from December 18 to January 11.

Return dates currently vary between local authority areas from January 5-7.

The proposal has been designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 after families gather for Christmas. Three households will be allowed to form a ‘bubble’ and spend time indoors together between December 23-27.

Talks over extending the school holidays were taking place on Friday morning, with a decision expected to be taken by the Scottish Government next week.

Discussions were also held on Thursday, with the proposals leaked to the Daily Record newspaper.

An alternative plan would see remote learning reintroduced for a few days until schools return.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman, who confirmed Scotland has recorded 37 deaths and 969 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, spoke about the proposals at the briefing on Friday.

She said the education recovery group’s discussions were focused on maintaining the Scottish Government’s commitment to keep schools open, “so that our young people can have the opportunity to learn and be part of normal school education.”

Freeman added: “Now, that recovery group has been working all through the summer to give us the best advice they can about how to ensure we can keep schools open.

“They looked at the end of the summer holiday period, the return of school, the lessons we have learned from that and what more we can do and they’re obviously looking at how we enter the festive period and the school holidays and how we return to school at the end of that holiday period.”

The Scottish Conservatives said various measures should be taken before the school holidays are extended.

Shadow education secretary Jamie Greene ]said:  “We want young people to grow up to have the best careers possible and any further watering down of their class time must be properly catered for at home. 

“Every child should have access to proper IT equipment and learning materials to ensure they don’t fall behind with their studies. 

“We should not underestimate the enormous pressure an extended Christmas break would put on countless working parents and every effort should be made to support them. 

“Re-opening key worker hubs to share the burden of child support is a must if an extended break does get the go ahead.”

Schools returned in August, following a closure which saw pupils sent home in March as the country locked down in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Other than occasional temporary closures to deal with outbreaks, schools have remained open with mitigating measures in place.

These include the use of face coverings among staff when social distancing is not possible and among S4-S6 pupils in level three and four areas.

Earlier this month, the NASUWT teaching union said smaller class sizes and blended learning should be considered for the areas in level four.

However, education secretary John Swinney said schools are “not a significant area of transmission” in response to the request.