Parents, pupils and teachers are yet to learn whether Christmas holidays will be extended with just over three weeks until schools in Fife and Tayside break off.
The Scottish Government is considering adding a week to the fortnight holiday to prevent head teachers, who are responsible for contact tracing in schools, being asked to identify and notify contacts as late as Christmas Day if a pupil or teacher tests positive for Covid-19.
A later return in January is also intended to reduce spread of the infection when schools reopen after the festive period when household mixing restrictions will be relaxed.
Schools in Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross are due to break off on December 23 and resume on January 7, while Fife pupils finish on December 22 and return on January 6.
If the extra holiday – or a period of blended or remote learning – is agreed it is expected schools will close on December 18 and reopen on January 11.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament he would make a decision at the “earliest opportunity” but there were dilemmas to be wrestled with.
Scottish Labour education spokesman, Iain Gray, who asked the Scottish Government to outline what it was considering, said: “We are in December now. Parents, teachers and head teachers need to know when we will hear.”
Mr Swinney said advice was being taken from clinicians and public health advisers and views sought from local authorities, but a final decision was yet to be taken.
He said: “My view is firmly that we want to avoid any sense of learning loss for young people as a consequence of an extension of the Christmas period.”
While some schools are already due to close on December 18, he said others would break off only a couple of days before Christmas.
He said: “There are some concerns in the education system that teachers and head teachers who are already very tired might still be dealing with the implications of contact tracing as late as Christmas Eve or perhaps even Christmas Day to notify outbreaks.
“There is going to inevitably be a degree more of social interaction within household settings round about the Christmas period with the announcement that was made last week, and the question is then, ‘is it advisable to delay the return of schools to avoid the recirculation of the virus?’
“These are some of the dilemmas we are wrestling with.
“There is no easy way through this and no universal view across the education system.”
Scottish Conservatives shadow education secretary Jamie Greene said: “Schools break in a matter of weeks.
“It’s astonishing we are still having this discussion and that parents and teachers don’t know what the plans are.”
He also demanded to know whether hubs would reopen for children of key workers if holidays are extended and asked for a guarantee that teaching time lost would be made up for later in the year.
He said: “If a decision is made to extend Christmas holidays that will come as a concern to many working families especially our key workers on the frontline.”
Mr Swinney said staff contractually entitled to leave over the festive period would lose that if hubs reopened but the issue had been discussed with local authorities.
He said consultation on extending the holiday had taken place over the last 10 or so days.
News of the proposal emerged last Friday when a report to local authorities body COSLA was leaked.
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