Schools are expected to remain closed until after the summer break to help tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Scotland’s education secretary.
John Swinney MSP was speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Tuesday when he revealed institutions north of the border will be shut until at least that period is over.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, previously said she could not “promise” they would be able to reopen before that time.
Mr Swinney said that schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future, which is expected to be until at least the summer break is over.
He added: “What I can say is that for the foreseeable future schools will be closed.
“We have taken no decisions to reopen schools and, as we said back in March, we expect them to be closed until at least the summer break.
“We are seeing the progress that is being made on slowing up the coronavirus just now, but that’s on the basis that only one in every 200 children are in schools today.
“The minute we say more people can be in that school, we are acknowledging that the risk of the spread of coronavirus rises and we can’t afford to take that risk.”
Mr Swinney also responded to concerns the lockdown would worsen the poverty attainment gap.
He told the broadcaster that devices such as laptops would be able to be shared more widely and they could use money to tackle the attainment gap with fewer restrictions.
The deputy first minister said: “What I’ve said to schools is that they can exercise much greater flexibility over the use of pupil equity funding and the resources that we allocate especially for the Scottish Attainment Challenge.”
When asked whether schools could give out devices such as laptops, he added: “Yes they could, or many schools already do that and many schools already provide all young people with devices that enable them to interact with their learning remotely.
“The flexibility we’ve given to schools, through pupil equity funding and the Scottish Attainment Challenge, enables schools to do exactly that if they judge that to be the right course of action.”
The pupil equity funding is allocated directly to schools and targeted at closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
This money is to be spent at the discretion of the headteacher working in partnership with their local authority, and is part of the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund.
It comes after the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) published developed guidance to support teachers when awarding pupils’ grades this year.
Staff are to use their professional judgment to estimate students’ final grades, as examinations were put off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Swinney said: “The SQA have responded to this entirely unprecedented situation that we face by devising a system that’s based on the information provided by teachers, and teachers will have seen the progress that young people will have been making during their education.
“By drawing on the estimates that teachers make of the performance of young people, the SQA will be able to certificate and to deliver the awards that are necessary this year based on the preservation of the standards that are important at the heart of our exam system.”