#schoolsafety | Parents group hails people power victory amid safety reservations over schools return

Parents who campaigned for a full return to schools in August have claimed a victory for people power.

However teaching union leaders insisted safety must remain the priority and one feared the move would put both children and staff at risk of infection.

Education Secretary John Swinney’s announcement that schools should prepare for a full return after the summer holidays has divided opinion.

The UsForThem Scotland group, which has around 8,000 members, called for all pupils to be back in class come August without social distancing.

Spokeswoman Jo Bisset said: “Parents from across the political spectrum pulled together with great urgency to ensure our voices were heard.

We say thank you to the teachers who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic.”

Jo Bisset, UsForThem Scotland

“We say thank you to the teachers who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic, while also having the added pressure of preparing plans for blended learning, which we hope will never be needed.”

However, she said an explicit statement was needed that there would be no social distancing in schools and clarity was required on the critieria which could result in a return to the ‘plan B’ of blended learning.

David Farmer, of the teaching union EIS’s Fife branch, said he was speechless at the turn around.

© DC Thomson
David Farmer, of the EIS Fife local association.

He said: “I cannot understand why we have gone from taking such a cautious approach to this big bang.

“I can understand that there has been some pressure in the wings but what we are talking about is sending all teachers and pupils, irrespective of their individual circumstances, back to school when you cannot guarantee their safety.

“How do you keep a class of 30 kids safe?”

How do you keep a class of 30 kids safe?”

David Farmer, EIS Fife

David Baxter, of the union’s Dundee branch, said: “We will continue to work with Dundee City Council to make sure that it’s a safe return for all.”

But he added: “It doesn’t give a lot of time for us to readjust plans and I think that will be the difficulty.”

The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said if the virus remain suppressed public health guidance may change.

‘Grave mistake’

He added: “It would be a grave mistake, however, to believe that the virus has gone away and therefore in the event of schools reopening more fully than currently planned, appropriate mitigations must be in place to protect staff and pupils and prevent flare-ups either in terms of localised resurgence in infection or even a full second wave.”

Fife’s education and children’s services convener Fay Sinclair welcomed the announcement.

© DC Thomson
Fife Council education and children’s services convener Fay Sinclair.

The SNP councillor said: “As a working parent of three young children I know how challenging these past three months have been and as we head into a few weeks of well-earned summer break it is a relief to be preparing for a return to something much more closely resembling normal in August.

“It was right that we explore contingency plans and if there is another rise in Covid-19 cases we could still need to fall back on that blended model, but I’m really pleased that we are now preparing for full time in-school learning from August.”

Perth and Kinross Council’s lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers was delighted by the news.

The Conservative councillor said: “It is important we safely get our children and young people back to school, this is so important for their emotional, social and educational wellbeing.

© DC Thomson
Perth and Kinross Council lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers.

“As a parent I can vouch that it has been very challenging trying to work from home and help to educate my children at the same time, and my mailbox is full of letters from parents in the same position.”

However, she said questions remained about when a final decision will be made on the return date and distancing measures for vulnerable pupils and staff.



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