John Swinney: Scottish schools to keep 2m distancing to continue “reducing prevalence” of coronavirus

The two-metre social-distancing rules will not be dropped in schools - despite “no evidence” of coronavirus spreading in education hubs, John Swinney has said.

Scotland's education secretary said the social-distancing guidelines that mean fewer pupils in schools at one time were to protect children, adults and the community from coronavirus.

Education hubs were set up in the wake of schools closing for the most vulnerable pupils and children of key workers, and Mr Swinney said he has not seen any evidence of Covid-19 spreading throughout these sites.

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The Scottish Government announced plans to reopen schools on 11 August with a “blended” learning model, which would see pupils spend at least half of their time learning from home.

Scottish education secretary John Swinney has said 2m social distancing will remain in place when schools reopen in August, despite "no evidence" of Covid-19 transmission in education hubs

In response to a suggestion that the two-metre rule could be reduced in schools, Mr Swinney said the government does not want to do anything that could jeopardise the “reducing prevalence” of coronavirus in Scotland.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: “So the two-metre rule has been applied based on scientific advice to protect us against the spread of coronavirus, which is the absolutely essential strategic priority of the government - to avoid any resumption or recirculation of the virus, and that applies in all walks of life.

“I know there is great debate about the prevalence of coronavirus and its spread amongst young people, but young people aren’t the only people that are in schools.

“There are plenty of adults in schools, and there’s plenty of adults surrounding schools in the transit of getting pupils to and from schools, so we can’t just view schools as just gatherings of young people that are essentially apart from the wider community.”

Asked whether teachers and young people have been getting ill from coronavirus at the education hubs, Mr Swinney said: “There’s no evidence of that I’m aware of, and obviously we see in general in Scotland a reducing prevalence of coronavirus, which is happening while the hubs are in operation.

“But it’s happening because of the measures that we have in place; the requirements that we’re putting on people in relation to physical distancing and the other hygiene measures.”

Amid concern about whether children in schools will actually comply with social distancing, he added: “We have to make sure that physical distancing becomes something that we are accustomed to as a society and it has to be applied.

“Our schools are designing their approaches to how they can welcome pupils back in, consistent with those physical distancing requirements.

“Classes, for example, will have to involve a smaller number of pupils, there will have to be fewer pupils in schools at given times to make sure that we are following the physical distancing requirements and therefore reducing the possibility of further spread of the virus as a consequence.”

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