Teaching unions and teachers’ groups have criticised the scheme as "counterproductive" and have argued that the additional workload for staff was disproportionate to benefits.
MSP Willie Rennie told the First Minister at the Covid-19 committee that the existing situation, which will see older students begin to return to the classroom on a part-time basis, was an “incredibly complicated plan”.
In response to criticism of the approach, which will see some students go into school for just a couple of hours of lessons a week, the First Minister said that a return of some kind before Easter was essential for the mental well-being of teenagers, despite the logistical challenges for teachers.
She said: "We want to get young people back into school full-time.”
She said the judgement the government had made was whether lower secondary school students would have no schooling before Easter, but that she wanted to “reacquaint” them with normality before then.
She said: "We opted for the latter as we all have young people in that age group in our own lives – or many of us will – and we can all see or be concerned about not just the educational impact about being out of school 100 per cent of the time, but also the well-being impact of being separated from friends. Even if it is partial and phased and limited, greater degrees of normality for young people from now onwards. There is nothing perfect here and nothing ideal.”
She added: "It’s the mental health. It’s their ability to interact and their relationships that are suffering. I appreciate this puts pressure on teachers and local authorities but we are trying to get back to full-time provision as quickly as possible.”
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