Scottish schools ‘unlikely’ to return to normal next year, John Swinney says
Mr Swinney said that social distancing measures were likely to be needed well into the next school year, meaning pupils might not be able to return to class more than a couple of days a week.
The Scottish Government announced plans to reopen schools on August 11 with a "blended" learning model, which would see pupils spend up to half of their time learning from home.
Speaking on Politics Scotland on Sunday, John Swinney said he could not say how long the blended model would be in place, adding the measures will not be in place "for a minute longer than is necessary".
He said: "I think that's unlikely because of the fact that we'll have to maintain the social distancing approaches for some considerable time to come.
"There will be changes and differences in the way we deliver education as a consequence of requirements for social distancing.
"There will be, on an ongoing basis, factors that we have to bear in mind in how schools operate but, obviously, the more we can try to expand the capacity and the involvement of young people in their education in face-to-face schooling, we'll be taking those opportunities when it is safe to do so."
The Education Secretary said he expected that exams would take place as normal in 2021, although the exam diet could be delayed depending on scientific advice. However, he said it would need to be completed in time for school leaves to begin higher or further education in the autumn.
As a precaution, teachers will be told to collect attainment data on pupils throughout the next school year in case exams are disrupted in 2021. Mr Swinney said there would be “a great deal of digital learning” to allow teachers to monitor pupils’ progress, even though they won’t be spending as much time with them in the classroom.
Mr Swinney also said it will be a legal requirement for parents to send their children to school, regardless of anxiety about the virus, but the homeschooling portion of the curriculum will not be legally enforced.
He said: "I understand their concerns. It was very clear in the period as we ran into lockdown there was a huge amount of parental anxiety about sending their children to school and its a really important part of my role to make sure that parents are confident about the steps that they've got to take.
"We'll have considered discussions with parents about the issues about which they're concerned.
"I fully recognise the fact that we're in a very different situation to the normal circumstances."
The Education Secretary said he was supportive of local authorities seeking to use public buildings to hold classes, such as town halls and libraries, as well as hiring more teachers to increase the number of classes and reduce the size of the cohorts, and was willing to enter talks with councils on funding needs.
He said: "What I've said to local authorities is come forward with those proposals and we'll look at those proposals.
"Councils are beginning to set out the approaches that they're taking, they will be considered and assessed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and will be tested to see whether or not these ideas can be utilised."
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