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Councils back teachers calling for more time to get ready for a return to class

© Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA WireNicola Sturgeon and John Swinney during First Minister’s Questions last week
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney during First Minister’s Questions last week

Scotland’s councils are backing teachers calling for the reopening of Scotland’s schools to be pushed back to allow more time to prepare.

Education Secretary John Swinney last week announced schools would reopen full-time on August 11 with no social distancing after previously ­suggesting blended learning, combining schools with online lessons, would last at least a year.

His surprise announcement came days after we told how parents and education experts feared plans for pupils to return to class for as little as one day a week would dramatically widen the attainment gap between the wealthiest and poorest post codes. However, some teachers were angry at the apparent U-turn, claiming they had worked tirelessly to prepare for blended learning and voicing concerns not enough work has been done on making schools safe to return.

On Friday, the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) pushed for the reopening date to be delayed to let teachers have more time to prepare for the new term after the school holidays.

Now Cosla, the umbrella group for Scotland’s local authorities, has backed the call. Stephen McCabe, children and young people spokesperson, said he wants the ­reopening pushed back by almost a week. “Up until John Swinney’s announcement, everyone was working on the blended learning model so this has been a dramatic turnaround,” he said.

“While there is still no certainty full-time schooling will go ahead, if it does then teachers are going to need time to get ready for this. We would like to see the start date being pushed back until at least August 17.”

Last week, politicians, parents and teachers told The Sunday Post that urgency, creativity and leadership was needed to reopen our schools.

AHDS general secretary Greg Dempster said the past few months of running hubs and developing a new way of working with school teams had taken a toll on school leaders.

“The next session is going to be another difficult term,” he said. “School leaders need the break to rest and ready themselves for next year. We would like to see a period at the start of the new term for revised planning to be developed and implemented before teachers return.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has denied the changed plans for schools was a reversal of policy, saying ministers are responding to fast-changing circumstances and blended learning will remain a contingency plan.

Sarah Chisnall, from campaign group 50-50 – which wants at least half of pupils’ time to be in the classroom and a national standard for online learning – welcomed plans for a full-time return to schools but voiced concern. “Some children won’t be able to go back to school because they might have an underlying health condition or people in their household are shielding,” she said. “And what would happen if there is another spike in the virus and schools have to be closed?

“We have a chance to get home learning where it needs to be. This should not be abandoned.”