North Isles councillor criticises Swinney over schools decision

A councillor says the Scottish government has shown “blatant disregard” for local authorities following its massive change of heart over when – and how – school children will return to their classrooms.

North Isles member Ryan Thomson says Education Minister John Swinney performed “the U-turn of all U-turns” by announcing the blended learning approach rapidly drawn up by council staff would now serve only as a contingency.

Schools had been preparing for part time education from 11th August onwards for potentially up to a year.

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But, in a significant turn of events, Mr Swinney announced this week that pupils would return for full time education on that date, with no physical distancing measures.

Mr Thomson, who represents the North Isles on the council’s education and families committee, said: “The cabinet secretary for education and skills John Swinney performed the U-turn of all U-turns in announcing that the blended learning approach for our schools is now the contingency, and the bairns will indeed be going back full time on August 11th.

“Showing further blatant disregard for local authorities, all the extraordinary hard work and money spent by our teachers has been completely undone at the flick of a pen without any warning whatsoever.

“Our amazing teaching staff have worked tirelessly throughout the year, and right through the Easter holidays, working over and above probably what they ever have had to do previously.

“Now, work must go into un-doing all the preparation they have done, with a week to go before the schools break up for the holidays. I hope they get the break and well-earned rest they deserve.”

Speaking to The Shetland Times this week, Kenny Pottinger, who chairs Scalloway Primary and Anderson High School parent councils, said he believed the right decision would be made to close schools again should there be another coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s a shame it’s so last minute because the teachers and heads have put so much into this blended model,” he said.


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