Covid Scotland: Only half of schools have any Covid cases, as Nicola Sturgeon confirms ban on live audiences at school Christmas concerts

Only half of Scottish schools have any active Covid cases, while “very few” have enough to be classified as an outbreak, MSPs have been told.

The recent figures have been revealed as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed in the Scottish Parliament that guidance has been issued to schools banning nativity plays and Christmas concerts with a live audience.

She said local authorities had been told that “seasonal events” within schools should not have live audiences and should use “alternative means” to make sure performances are available to parents.

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Ms Sturgeon said: “The guidance around schools is under review, we don’t want any restrictions to be in place around schools or early years settings for any longer than necessary. I hope children like the rest of us – more than any of the rest of us – will have a more normal Christmas than they did last year.”

Some schools have had to send classes home or close entirely due to teacher absence.Some schools have had to send classes home or close entirely due to teacher absence.
Some schools have had to send classes home or close entirely due to teacher absence.

In response to a question from MSP Martin Whitfield about school closures due to Covid-related staff shortages, education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said that last week, just four schools in Scotland had been closed, with the number this week reduced to one.

She said only half of schools have any Covid cases at all, while 17 per cent have only one case.

She said: “We do appreciate that there are operational challenges for many schools as they continue to deal with the challenges that Covid does present and as a government we take that very seriously. Schools can take decisions to close a year group for example, if that is the right response in their eyes to the operational challenges they have.”

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“We look very seriously at what needs to be done to support teachers. We keep very closely up to date with both local authorities and trade unions to ensure that there's anything more can be done."

Mr Whitfield added: “Children are again this winter being advised to wear coats and gloves while windows are open. So what is the Scottish Government going to do to improve the environment of pupils classrooms and teachers and classroom assistants and others’ place of work?”

Ms Somerville said that funds had been available for local authorities to improve ventilation in schools.

She said: “We are keeping very close contact still with the local authorities to ensure that work is being undertaken and continues to be undertaken where are necessary. Natural ventilation will play an important part of that - that's not the Scottish government deciding that, but is very much looking at the expert advice that's coming in specifically to deal with ventilation – but we will continue to ensure that we do keep a close eye on that to support schools with the ongoing monitoring they will need over the winter months.”

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MSP Craig Hoy pointed to the return of home based learning at Ross High School and for nine classes at Preston tower Primary School in East Lothian.

Ms Somerville said that the Scottish Government had funded an additional 2,200 teachers and 500 support staff.

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