Scots school holidays will not be extended, John Swinney announces

The school holidays will not be extended over the Christmas and new year period in Scotland, it has been announced.

Education Secretary John Swinney has ruled out the prospect of extending the holidays to three weeks after this was discussed by the Education Recovery Group.

But the move met with an angry response from teaching representatives, who say it shows a “complete disregard” for their welfare.

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The decision emerged in a letter to Holyrood’s Education and Skills committee today.

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"I have reached the decision not to make any changes to the planned Christmas and new year holiday dates and I am writing today to set out the reasons for this,” the Deputy First Minister states in the letter.

“The Public Health advice that I received is to keep schools open as planned as the controlled school environment is more preferable to social mixing outside of school if schools are closed early.

"In addition, vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period.

"The view of the Chief Social Work Adviser is that being in school is a very significant protective factor for the most vulnerable children and the longer children are out of school, the more chance there is of hidden harm.”

The prospect of a national break was considered to minimise virus spread after Christmas. It would have meant all schools shutting down on December 18 and reopening on January 11.

it was considered as a way to limit the re-circulation of the virus after the anticipated spike in cases over the five-day festive period when restrictions will be relaxed to allow families to come together.

But Mr Swinney states: “Public Health advice is, on balance, that there would be less transmission of Covid-19 through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school.”

The proposed change had prompted concerns that parents, particularly key workers, would be left with a major headache over childcare arrangements.

But today’s decision came under fire from Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union.

“Many teachers across Scotland will be disappointed and angered at the Scottish Government decision today, which once again shows a complete disregard for the concerns and welfare of teachers,” he said.

"The EIS had asked that schools move to remote learning in the final week to ensure that senior staff did not find themselves having to work during the Christmas break to deal with any Covid outbreaks and also to minimise the risk for staff, pupils and parents of infections ruining the Christmas break.

"Allowing this would have helped protect staff, students and their families during the festive season and reduce the risk of pupils or teachers being required to self-isolate over Christmas – while also ensuring that education provision continued via remote learning.”

He added: “It would appear that this is yet another political decision by the Scottish Government, which may thank teachers, but is unwilling to listen to them.

Holiday dates in Scotland vary between different council areas, with some schools due to finish on December 18 and others on December 22 or 23, before returning between January 5 and 7.

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