Elected members and officials have responded after the First Minister outlined how and when children will return to school as part of Scotland’s much vaunted “routemap” out of the coronavirus crisis.
Nicola Sturgeon provided detail on the country’s “four-phased plan” out of lockdown on Thursday afternoon.
She said children were likely to make a return to school on 11th August, subject to it being safe to do so at that time.
But the blended approach being used means children will have time in school with their teachers during the week and also time at home, where they will continue to access remote ‘online’ and ‘offline’ learning.
The approach will reduce the number of pupils in schools, as a whole, at any one time, to ensure physical distancing and other safety measures are adhered to.
The planned standardised national start date will mean an earlier start to the new academic session for schools and early learning and childcare settings.
Children were only due to return from their summer holidays on 19th August.
Subject to public health guidance, teachers and other school staff will be able to return to schools during June to plan and prepare for the new blended model of learning ahead of August implementation.
The council says health and safety guidance, including updated risk assessments, will be in place prior to the June return for staff.
The provision of critical childcare and additional support needs hubs, already established in the isles since the outset of Covd-19, will continue to support children of key workers, as well as children with complex additional support needs and vulnerable children and families.
Again, subject to the appropriate public health advice, it may also be possible to support children at key transition points in late June to help assist their next steps in their education.
Director of Children’s Services, Helen Budge said: “Children’s Services will consider very carefully the announcements around Scottish schools reopening from the Scottish government today in relation to our own recovery and renewal plan.
“We have been provided with a clearer steer and direction for moving forward. We will now develop our planning, referring to the national framework and our own unique local circumstances.
“We will do all this in partnership with school managers, colleagues in transport planning, building services, health and safety and human resources, and in discussion with local unions.
“We will share further information to school staff and parents and carers as soon as it is possible to do so. It is important to stress that the safety of all our children and staff will continue to be paramount in all our planning.”
Chairman of the education and families committee George Smith highlighted the progress with remote learning for children and young people since the majority of Shetland’s schools and nursery settings closed on 13th March.
The new technology will continue to support the blended approach to learning and teaching planned for August.
“I have been extremely impressed with the response of our teachers, support staff and children and young people,” said Mr Smith.
“Teachers have adapted very well to new ways of working, upskilling themselves in the online platform Glow and Microsoft Teams to communicate with their pupils.
“Schools are delivering a range of learning activities suited to all the levels and needs of our learners.
“I am very confident that all our staff will rise to the challenge of delivering education in this blended way, ensuring all pupils receive the highest quality education possible.”
Mrs Budge also praised parents and carers.
“During these challenging and uncertain times, we have been very grateful for the support we have received from parents,” she said.
“They have been excellent in providing feedback to their schools on their children’s remote learning experiences.”