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Christmas school holidays in Scotland to go ahead as planned with no extension

© Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA WireDeputy First Minister John Swinney
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

No extra days will be added to this year’s Christmas school holidays, the Education Secretary has confirmed.

John Swinney told Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee on Thursday that the Scottish Government had decided against extending the fortnight break.

The move was being considered in a bid to curb coronavirus circulation amid relaxed restrictions over the festive period.

Schools across the country would have closed on December 18, with a return on January 11.

Dates for the holidays differ between Scotland’s council areas. Most schools will close on December 22 or 23 and reopen between January 5 and 7.

Mr Swinney said: “Being in school is in the best interests of children and our priority remains to ensure schools are safe, and open. I want to thank school leaders, teachers and school staff for their outstanding commitment to education that has enabled children and young people to learn safely in school since August.

“The advice I have received from public health officials, and the COVID-19 Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues, is not to alter Christmas and New Year holiday dates.

“We also know vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period, and I am mindful of the impact an extension to school holidays would have for working parents. For these reasons I do not see a clear rationale for changing term dates and disrupting children’s education.”

Mr Swinney previously said there were “dilemmas” to be wrestled with in making a decision on the holidays.

He said advice was taken from clinicians and public health advisers and views sought from local authorities.

In his letter, he wrote: “The Public Health advice that I received is to keep schools open as planned as the controlled school environment is more preferable to social mixing outside of school if schools are closed early. In addition, vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period.

“The view of the Chief Social Work Advisor is that being in school is a very significant protective factor for the most vulnerable children and the longer children are out of school the more chance there is of hidden harm.

“Public Health advice is, on balance, that there would be less transmission of COVID-19
through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school. Adding this to the issues around vulnerable children and the need for childcare for key worker children, public health advice is to not change term dates at either end. I am also mindful that an extension to the school holidays could cause significant difficulties for working parents.”

Read the letter in full here.