Schools could reopen by August

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, the council’s policy lead for education

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Argyll and Bute Council is working on the assumption that schools will return in some form in August, a meeting has heard.

Douglas Hendry, executive director with responsibility for education, delivered an update on the authority’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak at a virtual meeting of its business continuity committee yesterday, Thursday May 14.

A report for the meeting gave details of educational measures, including school meal provision and digital learning, since schools were closed on Friday March 20.

And Mr Hendry said while speaking to the report that August, when schools usually go back after summer, is earmarked for some form of return to lessons, pending lockdown measures.

He said: ‘There is still no clear position, but the assumption we are working on is some form of reopening of schools, although not back to what it was before, in August. Work is going on to prepare for that.’

Councillor Lorna Douglas then said: ‘People have complained about certain things, but I’ve had a lot of good feedback from people about how the council has put things in place.

‘Mr Hendry mentioned that we hoped that schools would reopen by August. I know that is what has been discussed nationally.

‘I just wondered whether we could have reports about education and planning, and what is actually happening on how this is moving forward, at our next meeting?’

Mr Hendry responded: ‘In terms of education as a whole, there is a high level of framework and we have paid particular attention to matters that have been pressure points.

‘We will see early learning and childcare, including our 1,140 hours programme, and additional support needs, being looked at.

‘It is pretty clear that there will not be a return to pre-lockdown scenarios, so we are looking at things in relation to accommodation and on what basis schools would reopen.

‘From discussion with a member of staff in education, the phrase that they used was that they would be looking at a blended approach.

‘We are working on all those things and will have a range of papers coming forward to keep members up to speed.’

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, the council’s policy lead for education, then added: “I am more than happy that we are working transparently and will give updates on these matters.

‘On a point of clarity, I am absolutely with the first minister on that we approach everything with caution, and a multi-layered approach may not be taken for August because everything is far from clear.

‘I am in another education group and we have heard about young children who have been in contact with the virus and had a delayed reaction.

‘They are taking up to a month before starting to manifest any real symptoms, so there is a real side issue. It is about doing things extremely cautiously.’

The Educational Institute for Scotland, the country’s largest teachers’ union, has previously said that schools should not return before August.

The Scottish Government has not yet stated a timetable for pupils going back to school, but has said a return before the scheduled summer break was unlikely and a phased return would almost certainly be required.