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Hugging bans, smaller classes and limits to toilet trips: what schools across our regions have planned from August 11

Pupils leave a local school at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pupils leave a local school at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Children across the country will face a new reality when they return to school from August 11, with councils taking different approaches related to local circumstances.

Education secretary John Swinney said he expects children to spend as close as possible to half their time in school when classes resume in August and local authorities have been tasked with coming up with their own plans for education delivery.

Speaking during her daily briefing on Monday, the First Minister said that schools will return to normal as soon as it is safe with hopes that will be as “soon as it is feasible”.

We take a look at the plans already in place, or being developed, by councils across the north, north-east, Tayside, Fife, Islands and Perth.

Aberdeen

Pupils will attend school on a rota basis, class sizes will be reduced and there will be a ban on hugging and holding hands, under the plans unveiled by city council bosses.

The local authority has published one of the most detailed delivery plans to date, which maps out the work staff are undertaking to make schools and classrooms safe in time for August 11.

Among the measures, staff and pupils will see the numbers of people allowed to access the toilet at any one time limited and staff will be advised to bring their own cutlery and change their clothes daily.

Pupils will have to bring a packed lunch to school, which they will eat in their classrooms in order to reduce “social interaction”.

Children will have to walk single file throughout the building with signage and one-way systems to help with promoting physical distancing.

Use of fixed outdoor equipment will not be permitted and individual schools will be asked to consider how best to stagger breaks to reduce children mixing.

A maximum of one-third of pupils could attend in-school learning at any one time but there would be “significant variation” at individual schools”, with some “unlikely to achieve the aspiration of one-third”.

Education convener John Wheeler.

Councillor John Wheeler, education committee convener, said: “The plan reflects the fact no two schools are the same and so assessments of each site are being undertaken so that the appropriate physical distancing and other safety measures are in place for each school.”

Aberdeenshire

Pupils returning to Aberdeenshire schools in August may have single-subject, all-day lessons as part of their plans to ensure social distancing and limit the spread of Covid-19.

Education staff have been working on their plans for resuming school lessons from August 11, with an expectation that pupils will spend around half their time in school with peers and the other half at home.

There are 171 schools across Aberdeenshire with some remote rural schools serving fewer than a dozen pupils and larger communities hosting hundreds so head teachers have been drawing up their own proposals to suit the needs of each individual school.

Laurence Findlay, the director of education and children’s services, said many proposals are under consideration including one-way systems, staggered starts breaks and finishing times and different rotas.

Laurence Findlay, director of education and children’s services at Aberdeenshire Council.

He said: “So they may consider organising learning into half-day blocks, or whole-day blocks, or they may stick with periods.”

The council hopes that finalised plans will start to be confirmed by head teachers this week for some schools across the region.

Moray

Moray Council has confirmed that pupils will return on August 12, with August 10 and 11 in-service days.

Classrooms are being reconfigured to allow physical distancing and signage will also be installed in and around schools on the importance of physical distancing.

The amount of physical time spent in classrooms will vary between schools but, in line with Scottish Government guidance, the local authority is working towards a “blended model” of being in school for 50% of the time.

A spokeswoman for the council said:  “Using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams and class DoJO will continue.

“In addition, there will be in-class learning where learners will work in small groups with a teacher and tasks will be set which can then be completed independently at home.

“Recovery models for each individual school in Moray are impacted by issues such as transport, sibling attendance, school roll size and size/layout of space.

“Each school will communicate their specific plan with families.”

Highland

There are 203 schools across the Highland council area of different sizes and configurations.

Highland Council’s Inverness HQ.

Over the coming weeks, the local authority has said all of these will require “personalised approaches” in planning for the reopening.

A Highland spokeswoman said: “Wellbeing and safety is a top priority for all our children, staff and communities.

“We are working with all key partners, stakeholders and providers to ensure our educational settings are not only as safe as possible to return to in August, but also positioned to be able to provide the best possible learning and teaching experiences for our local authority’s children and young people, taking account of the restrictions presented by the Covid-19 crisis.”

Dundee

Dundee City Council is working to ensure schools will be able to reopen from August 11, with a mixture of classroom and home learning.

Some children and young people will be entering school buildings over what would have been the last two weeks of term towards the end of June for key transition stages including entry to P1, S1 and some of the senior years.

Councillor Stewart Hunter.

Dundee City Council education convener Stewart Hunter said they are currently working through their plans for August, with hopes of updating parents as “quickly as possible”.

He said: “Our priority throughout the process is ensuring that when the school buildings reopen our staff and pupils are safe.

“We will consider all options available to us to maximise the time pupils spend in school without compromising safety or diluting the education experience for young people.

“I appreciate that this is an anxious time for parents.

“They have been extremely supportive and patient with us as we consider how we will operate in August.

“We will let them know what the plans look like as quickly as we can.”

Angus

Schools in Angus will reopen on August 12, although not all pupils will return on this date, the council has said.

Under the council’s plans, in the early stages, primary children will play and learn together in small groups called ‘bubbles’.

Other measures include staggered starts, breaks, lunch and finishing times and schools will try to have siblings attending on the same days.

Some schools may be able to accommodate children attending “much more frequently” than others.

Kelly McIntosh, director of education and lifelong learning, said: “While each school will be open every day, only a certain number of children will be able to attend at any one time, and this will vary for each school.”

Fife

Fife Council has announced it will be developing a blended model of in-school and home learning that would see children attend school at different times.

Every school building will have had a full risk assessment carried out before it reopens and staff will have received training on the new physical distancing measures.

To facilitate this, the council expects to have 50% of its pupils in school at any one time.

Executive director Carrie Lindsay.

Executive director Carrie Lindsay said: “All primary schools are proposed to be working on a basic principle of two days in school for all pupils, with 50% of pupils in school at any one time.

“Schools will support the grouping together of families for individual days.

“In secondary schools there will be a more bespoke model in place with pupils attending one day a week for an induction, rising to as near 50% of their time that will be blocked in ways that suits each secondary school’s circumstances.”

Perth and Kinross

Planning is under way for pupils’ return to school and will be informed by scientific public health advice, the council has said.

A strategy is being developed that is likely to include a “blend of in-school and at-home learning for almost all children”.

A spokesman said: “Each school’s different circumstances is being taken into account as part of this process, and parents and carers will be advised by their child’s school before the end of the current term of the attendance arrangements that they will be operating from August 11.”

Western Isles

Council bosses published a detailed 36-page delivery plan last week outlining the steps for schools returning.

In it, they say it is “crucial” for schools to calculate the maximum number of pupils that can safely access the school while maintaining physical distancing considered against information on the attendance of staff.

Planning will also include exploring the use of adjacent or nearby buildings “not typically used” to accommodate pupils.

Being an island community, consideration of the impact of providing school transport in a safe and physically distant capacity is “critical” in determining the number of pupils that can attend.

First priority for attendance will go vulnerable pupils and children of key workers with remaining places then opened to pupils on a rotation agreed by individual schools.

Planning and preparation for schools returning on August 11 continues with all schools.

As such, attendance patterns and routines have not yet been finalised in the Western Isles schools.

Shetland

The strategy of the Shetland Islands Council will be built around its very diverse school estate, from very small rural, island settings to large primary and secondary schools.

Eshaness, Shetland Islands.

The local authority and all its schools are currently developing plans for the “blended learning” model from August 11.

In practice, this will mean differences in Shetland for the number of days children are in school each week, due to the physical distancing requirements and the different capacities of classrooms, and sizes of school rolls.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The safety of staff and children and young people is paramount to our planning.

“Shetland Islands Council is continuing to share information with parents and carers as our plans develop for August.”

Orkney

In line with other island council areas, Orkney is working on its school transport plan as part of planning for the reopening of schools in August.

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