Pupils’ return to school full-time in August is in jeopardy without earlier clarity from the government, according to a parents’ campaign group.
UsForThem Scotland wants a final decision on how youngsters will return as soon as possible to allow schools, local authorities and parents time to prepare.
It also wants schools to be deemed critical infrastructure, like hospitals and power stations, and kept open even if there are isolated cases of coronavirus.
The Scottish Government said it would confirm no later than July 30 that schools can return full-time, based on scientific evidence and public health advice.
Sufficiently low infection rate
But it insisted the notion this plan was in jeopardy “is simply not true” and that it must be conditional on a sufficiently low infection rate.
Jo Bisset, organiser of the 8,000-strong parents’ group, said confirmation with less than a fortnight to go could see schools unprepared for a full return.
She also said working parents and parents of children with additional support needs, such as autism, needed to know sooner.
In Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross, education chiefs plan for pupils to return in phases from August 12, with all back in class from August 17. Angus Council is to review the latest guidance this week but intends pupils will start returning from August 12.
Ms Bisset said: “The time has come for the Scottish Government to make clear the exact plans for getting our children back to school normally and in full by August.”
If schools are to reopen in full on August 11 they need to be preparing now.”
Jo Bisset, UsForThem Scotland
Ms Bisset said: “We welcomed the commitment made two weeks ago, but it won’t happen unless a clear strategy is in place.
“Schools in other European countries have been open for weeks and we see no reason why our children should be further harmed by this prevarication.”
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, she also said: “We consider that schools should be deemed critical infrastructure in the way that hospitals and power stations are.
“Critical infrastructure are not be closed down in the case of isolated cases of Covid-19 on site.”
Fife Council said it would “appreciate as much notice as possible” but will be ready to fully reopen schools.
Shelagh McLean, head of education, said: “We will be in a position to reopen schools unless public health advice dictates otherwise.
While we’d appreciate as much notice as possible, it’s important for us that the right decision is taken based on public health advice.”
Shelagh McLean, Fife Council
“We’re continuing to work through the summer break to make sure our buildings are ready to receive pupils and staff.
“And, from August 3, we’ll be working with local school teams to make sure everything is ready in line with guidance.
“While we’d appreciate as much notice as possible, it’s important for us that the right decision is taken based on public health advice.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “Our staff have worked tirelessly over the last few months to provide the highest standard of education possible under the circumstances.
“Work continues at pace as we prepare to welcome children, young people and staff safely back to school from August 2020.”
The health and safety of pupils, staff and others is of paramount importance.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said the education recovery group, which includes councils, teachers’ representatives, parent bodies and trades union, would ensure plans were made for “a safe and smooth transition” back to school in August.
He said: “The health and safety of pupils, staff and others is of paramount importance.
“That is why the plan for a full-time return to schools is conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to suppress the virus, public health and testing systems being in place, risk assessments being carried out in schools and protective measures, including the use of PPE where appropriate, being in place and we are committed to supporting this process and to publishing the scientific evidence and public health advice that underpins our planning.”