Anxious parents and teachers from across the UK are following news of coronavirus cases in Tayside schools.
As schools in England and Wales prepare to reopen next month, following those in Northern Ireland on Monday, nationwide attention has fallen on the positive cases in schools in Dundee and Perthshire.
UK media reports of the outbreak at Kingspark School, in the city, are being widely read by worried parents and school staff south of the border and shared on social media.
Some 22 people connected with Kingspark, which has around 185 pupils with additional support needs, have now tested positive, 17 of them staff, two pupils and three community contacts.
There are also positive cases – one each – at St Peter and St Paul’s Primary School and Happy Times out-of-school club at Downfield Primary School, both Dundee, Oakbank Primary School, Perth, and Newhill Primary School, Blairgowrie.
A story about Kingspark School was the third most read story on The Guardian website on Monday afternoon, while Dundee was trending on Twitter.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told parents that it is “absolutely vital” to get children back into school at the start of next month.
However, many people remain scared to send their children back to school as parents have already done in Scotland.
The outbreak at Kingspark is also being closely followed by teaching unions down south, with calls being made for the Westminster government to provide a “robust back-up plan” in the event of a local outbreak impacting schools.
This does not and cannot mean that there is no risk, and this outbreak shows that stark reality very clearly. Our thoughts are with all those affected.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools are working very hard to put in place an extensive series of safety controls to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission and protect staff and pupils.
“This does not and cannot mean that there is no risk, and this outbreak shows that stark reality very clearly. Our thoughts are with all those affected.
“However, the risk posed by coronavirus has to be set against the educational risk to pupils of missing school, and we agree with the Chief Medical Officer that the balance is very strongly in favour of children returning to the classroom.
“What we do need, as a matter of urgency, is for the government in Westminster to provide a robust back-up plan over what happens in the event of local closures or a second national shutdown which goes beyond simply returning to a situation where most pupils are learning from home.”
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, hoped that lessons would be learned from the outbreaks in Dundee schools.
He said: “It is important that more detailed investigations take place at this school and any other setting where an outbreak occurs in order to understand how the outbreak has occurred and to inform any remedial actions which need to be taken in that school as a result and any wider lessons which can be learned in terms of the application of safety measures across schools more generally.
“This case illustrates the importance of all schools and settings ensuring they have in place robust procedures to mitigate the continued risks posed by Covid and the importance of continued vigilance and a safety first approach to the provision of education in all schools.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned last week that a rise in the number of schoolchildren contracting Covid-19 was inevitable.
However, she stressed the importance of keeping schools open to avoid the “considerable” harm of children losing out on education.
Kingspark School was closed last Wednesday and pupils and staff asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The cases at St Peter and St Paul’s and Happy Times were identified as a result of contact tracing connected to Kingspark.
Schoolchildren have also tested positive for the virus in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Inverness, Renfrewshire, Aberdeen and the Scottish Borders.