Parents will be sighing with relief at news that all pupils are expected to return to school – some part-time – from March 15.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that all P4 to P7 children will return to primary schools on that date, joining P1 to P3 and nursery youngsters who went back on February 22.
All secondary school pupils will also return then part-time before returning full-time after the Easter holidays in April.
A few secondary pupils have also been in school since February 22 for essential practical coursework.
Levenmouth Academy parent Phil Grant is glad his daughter Rhiannon and her peers will be back at the Fife school after more than eight weeks of learning from home.
Mr Grant, who is chairman of the school’s parent council, said: “I am more than happy for my daughter to go back to school if the government says this is the right time to do so and the teachers are happy with how it is done.
Levenmouth Academy is in an area of deprivation and for some pupils it is their only safe place.”
Phil Grant, Levenmouth Academy parent council
“I am not so worried about my daughter, because I know she is doing well at home schooling, but Levenmouth Academy is in an area of deprivation and for some pupils it is their only safe place. I understand the need for them to go back and I support that.”
Implementing two-metre distancing, which will be required in secondary schools until at least the holidays would, he said, be easier in the Buckhaven school than it might in some older buildings.
He said: “Levenmouth Academy is a brand new school with big, wide corridors and they have one-way systems in place.”
Remote learning improvement
Mr Grant also praised how the school had handled remote learning, which he said had improved significantly since schools were closed last year.
He said: “The first lockdown was really difficult, my daughter needed a lot of support with her work but this time she has needed 90% less help at home.
“We have been really, really happy with how the school has handled the situation. They have been very, very open with us. There is a fantastic relationship between the parents, the school and our local councillors.”
Mary O’Connor is the Dundee representative of the National Parent Forum of Scotland and has two sons at Balgdragon Academy, Adam in S1 and Jack in S3. Her youngest son George is already back in P2 at Ardler Primary School and daughter Lucy will be returning to P6.
She said: “It’s really positive news that all secondary pupils will getting some time in school, although not a full return before the Easter holidays.
“There is the caveat that the guidance has yet to be published and it will depend on the capacity of schools how many kids will be in school, as part of the mitigating factors to allow them to get back.
“Up until the Easter holidays there will be an element of remote learning, but certainly getting some time in school is going to be good for kids, even just getting back in to see their friends.”
Making schools safe
Dundee City Council children and families convener was also pleased to hear that all children could be back in just under a fortnight.
Councillor Stewart Hunter said: “We have been given flexibility about how the phased return and blended learning will work for secondary pupils and we will be working hard to make sure our schools are safe for everyone.
“Our pupils who have been learning at home since the start of term will be delighted to get back to the classroom.
“This announcement is a big step forward. However, I would urge everyone to keep sticking to the rules so that the number of cases continues to decline.”
Teachers’ union, the EIS, however, warned against an ‘overhasty’ return to class and that scrapping distancing measures after the holidays could put teachers and young people at risk.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “While teachers are obviously eager to see young people returning to classrooms, they are also very clear that this must be done safely.
“We are only one full week into the return of P1-3 and the impact of that needs to be assessed before final decisions are taken on next steps.
“The First Minister has said the government will be driven by data not dates but today’s announcement seems to be quite the opposite of that.
“An overhasty return of all pupils to the classroom setting, could put at risk the progress that has been made in reducing rates of Covid infection during the lockdown period.”