Coronavirus in Scotland: John Swinney says ‘every possibility’ secondary schools could use blended learning in classroom

John Swinney has said there is “every possibility” that secondary schools in Scotland may have to use blended learning when more pupils are allowed to return to the classroom.

Scotland’s Education Secretary was speaking after it was confirmed that a small number of senior students will be able to return to high school from Monday, if they need to do so for practical work.

Children in P1 to P3 and nursery school youngsters are also set to return to class on Monday, on a full-time basis.

But when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the move to MSPs on Tuesday, she said it is unlikely any more pupils will return to face-to-face learning before March 15.

Senior pupils permitted to return to class next week will need to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, Ms Sturgeon confirmed, with Covid-19 testing also being made available to them and their teachers.

Mr Swinney said the need to ensure social distancing means fewer pupils can be in school at the same time.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Wednesday morning, he said: “The scientific advice I have available to me just now recognises that physical distancing will be required for at least senior phase pupils in our secondary schools.”

Asked about the prospect of blended learning – which would see pupils in class for part of the week and learning remotely for the remainder – he said there is “every possibility, unless that advice changes, that we have to operate on such a model”.

There is “every possibility” that secondary schools may have to use blended learning when more youngsters are allowed to return to the classroom, the Education Secretary has said.

Mr Swinney said he could not be “definitive about timescales” for when any blended learning model may begin.

He added: “There is a very successful programme of remote learning being delivered by schools around the country, which is delivering education in the home to many, many pupils.

“From Monday those senior pupils who need to have access to schools for practical exercises will be able to get that access from Monday onwards.

“We are working to reduce the prevalence of the virus, to make sure we can restore education on a safe basis.

“We will take considered decisions based on the evidence that is available to us about when we can return pupils to face-to-face learning, and I am absolutely crystal clear, I want to make sure we return pupils to face-to-face learning as soon as it is safe to do so.

“But I have to be mindful of the clinical and scientific advice that is put to me to make sure that everybody, staff and pupils, are safe in this process.”

On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon stressed the need to “properly assess” the impact of the start of the phased return to schools.

The First Minister said: “Please treat Monday’s important milestone as a return to education for children only, and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us.”

Here, she said: “The evidence suggests that the key risk in re-opening schools isn’t transmission of the virus within schools – instead, the risk comes from the increased contact the re-opening sparks amongst the wider adult population.

“The risk is that schools going back might lead to parents socialising more, at the school gates for example, or returning to the workplace rather than working from home.”

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