27th May 2020
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Phased return to schools is outlined

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.

Nicola Sturgeony. Photo: Dave Donaldson

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.

Helen Budge. Photo: Kevin Jones

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.”

Anderson High School and halls of residence. Photo: John Coutts

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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  1. John Thomas

    Again some positive news. However, I can’t help but thinking that we have been late to react here. England under Boris has some schools opening on the 1st of June. Why are we Scots out of step with our cousins further South? I suppose that’s what you get for a Scottish Nationalist administration. It’s all very well putting Scotland first but we are part of a wider nation and should remember that before looking out for our own interests. I wonder what Boris is making of this?

    • peter smith

      Boris is too buzy thinking up excuses for another of his mates who thinks the rules dont apply to him. Anyway, I think you’ll find that having realised the “world beating” testing and tracking promise is another mirage (lie?), there will be an awful lot less opening on June 1st.

      • Ian Tinkler

        Peter Smith, less in Scotland or less in England?

      • John Thomas

        Excuses? Yes. Lies? Maybe. But Boris is an honourable man who is standing by his friends. We should not be too quick to condemn this sort of loyalty. It is not a first for him either (just look up “I’ll do it Guppy” and you will see what I mean). Besides, as one commentator said, Boris sacking Cummings would be like Emu sacking Rod Hull.

    • Andy McNab

      Maybe because our schools are starting their holidays at this time!!

  2. Brian Smith

    Surely you mean Queen Victoria, John?

    • John Thomas

      Indeed Brian – if Queen Victoria is down there, looking up at us now, she would surely asking some searching questions of the SNP. Like a dentist friend of ours previously commented, ‘It will be interesting to see how England fares while the Scottish government vacillates.’ One does however fear that perhaps this was premature, as experts agree that a vacillation campaign may be some months or years off.


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