‘We want our families to see us graduate’

The youngsters want their families to be present at their nursery graduation.
The youngsters want their families to be present at their nursery graduation.

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A group of parents have spoken of their frustration at Scottish Government policy which forbids them from being at their children’s nursery graduations despite thousands of fans attending football matches.

They all have children due to graduate from Dalintober Primary School’s Early Learning Centre (ELC) next week, ahead of starting primary school in August.

Family and friends are usually invited to attend the graduation ceremony but this year, in line with government restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19, they are not allowed to be there.

With lockdown restrictions easing, the parents made several suggestions which could have allowed them to attend, including asking for the event to be held outside.

However, they were told parents are not allowed on school grounds whatsoever.

The parents added they are fully aware this decision is outwith the school’s and council’s control and know they are simply adhering to the Scottish Government’s regulations.

While appreciating that rules need to be put in place because of the pandemic, they feel it is unfair they are missing a ‘monumental moment’ in their children’s lives despite 12,000 fans being allowed in Glasgow’s Hampden Park to watch the Euro 2020 football match against the Czech Republic on Monday.

Parent Danielle Armour said: ‘Not getting to see my four-year-old daughter Millie graduate from nursery is just devastating.

‘It is a day I can never get back or relive and neither can Millie. The fact that the Scottish Government will allow thousands of people to watch a football game but I can’t be part of a significant moment of Millie’s life disgusts me.’

Danielle and several of the frustrated parents have written to the Scottish Government to highlight the significance of graduations and other school events to parents, in the hope they will be treated ‘the same way as football fans’.

They feel like there should be some leeway in the policy which would allow local authorities or schools, particularly in rural areas, to put in place the measures they feel are most appropriate.

‘There is absolutely no consistency or logic in the Scottish Government’s handling of these regulations,’ Danielle added. ‘How can it be deemed safe for thousands of fans from all across the country to come together in stadiums and fan zones but it is not deemed safe for a small group of parents – who already gather twice daily to collect their children from school – to stand outdoors wearing masks to watch their children being given a certificate?’

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘We understand parents are disappointed they cannot attend school and nursery graduation ceremonies.

‘However, we are adhering to national guidance set out by the Scottish Government which asks ELC settings to find alternative ways to celebrate that don’t involve groups of parents gathering at settings.’

Jenni Minto, MSP for Argyll and Bute, told the Courier: ‘The Scottish Government has been guided by the advice given to it by the education sub-advisory group, which has advised that the risks of parents and carers attending these events outweighed the benefits to children.

‘Throughout the pandemic, the priority has been to keep schools and ELC settings open as much as possible and we have learned that if a case is detected in a school or similar setting it risks closing the entire school or ELC and we cannot take that risk.

‘I understand that many schools and ELCs are exploring alternative ways to celebrate these occasions, whilst not gathering in person, and I hope they can still create very special memories.’

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘We know these ceremonies are important to many parents and carers. However, our Covid-19 safety guidance seeks to minimise the number of contacts that children and staff have in ELC settings by, for example, limiting adult visitors to those that are strictly necessary.

‘This guidance is developed in consultation with public health experts on the advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues and in Public Health Scotland.

‘We know that attending high quality ELC supports children’s development. It’s important that we keep these settings as safe as possible so that they can remain open and to reduce the need for staff and children to stay home and self-isolate.

‘We also need to protect the staff who work there and have supported families and children throughout the pandemic.

‘We are consulting with the advisory sub-group on this issue and will provide an update if the advice changes.’

The parents are urging people to email the Scottish Government at ceu@gov.scot or Ms Minto at Jenni.Minto.MSP@parliament.scot in support of all parents who face missing out on these once-in-a-lifetime moments.