School bosses have been warned by Scotland’s Education Secretary that Covid-related mitigation measures from last year may return.
However, ahead of a Covid-19 update on Tuesday afternoon First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said shutting schools was not on the table at this stage.
As speculation mounts over the possibility of further school closures, Shirley-Anne Somerville has given council education directors ‘early notice’ that some protection measures introduced last year may be reinstated.
Schools and nurseries were closed for several weeks in 2020 and earlier this year, ‘bubbles’ were established resulting in entire classes or year groups isolating due to a single Covid case and one-way systems around corridors were among measures brought in.
In a letter to education directors Ms Somerville said that the ‘merits of reinstating some of the protections’ had been discussed at a meeting of the Scottish Government’s education recovery group (CERG) on Thursday.
We need to recognise the gravity of the situation and be prepared for all possible scenarios.”
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville
National qualifications – which include National 5s, Highers and Advanced – were among related issues which would need to be worked through, she said.
In the joint letter with COSLA, Ms Somerville told directors: “While we hope that such caution is not needed, we need to recognise the gravity of the situation and be prepared for all possible scenarios.
“If there is a need to update guidance documents, we will work with partners to develop that and look to provide the sector with as much notice as possible.
“Please treat this letter as early notice that such an update may be forthcoming.”
Early closure for Christmas
The EIS teaching union has already stated early closure of schools before Christmas may be necessary.
Schools in Tayside and Fife are due to close next Wednesday for the holidays.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan told The Sunday Times: “The Scottish Government should consider an early Christmas closure if a firebreak is needed to fend off a new wave of infection.
“There is no threat to next May’s exams as yet but the situation is being monitored and discussed.”
But according to the BBC Ms Sturgeon said that closing schools was not an option for ministers when they meet on Tuesday.
She said: “Any leader that stands and says 100% that anything can be ruled out forever is not being straight with you, but we are not considering the closure of schools.
“Children have suffered disproportionately in this. The priority is to keep schools open and keep them open safely – I am not considering at this stage closing schools early or not reopening schools.”