Back to school plans which will see some pupils in class two days or less before the holidays were branded an “absolute joke” in the Scottish Parliament.
Secondary schools have had to create new timetables to get every pupil into class before the end of term, following last week’s announcement of a return for all children from Monday.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said parents were shocked to learn their children would have as little as half a day a week in school before Easter and that home learning would suffer as teachers returned to face-to-face teaching.
Ms Davidson asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon if she could look parents in the eye and say this was the significant progress she had claimed.
Last Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon announced that all secondary pupils would get some education in school from Monday before going back full-time after the holidays.
P4 to P7 children are also to return full-time on March 15, joining P1 to P3 and nursery pupils who went back on February 22.
Two-metre distancing limits capacity
However, due to two-metre distancing requirements in secondary schools before the holidays, some schools in Tayside and Fife are only able to offer pupils one day a week in-school.
Ms Davidson quoted a Fife parent who said his daughter’s one day a week in school was an “absolute joke” and that she would lose live teaching time online.
She said: “Parents who have spent months trying to home school and watching their children struggle away from their friends and face-to-face teaching were expecting a significant change.
“It has therefore come as a shock to many to discover that when the letter came in they were looking at something less than billed.”
Another parent, she said, described the second phase of the school return as a “token gesture”.
Parents and pupils were promised a return to the classroom but from the information they are now getting sent it’s clear for many this will amount to only a few hours a week at best.”
Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader
She said: “Parents and pupils were promised a return to the classroom but from the information they are now getting sent it’s clear for many this will amount to only a few hours a week at best.”
Getting all school pupils back to school for the first time since before Christmas was a significant change, insisted Ms Sturgeon.
She said: “I understand that few groups in society have found this more difficult than parents who had have to juggle childcare with working from home and all the other responsibilities that are part of everyday life. So I understand how important this is.”
The Scottish Government was, she said, balancing difficult challenges.
She added: “Instead of having some young people in secondary schools with no in-school contact at all we have decided to try to do that, even if that is on a fairly minimal basis for the period between now and Easter in order to try to reacquaint them with school, with their friends and in order to prioritise their wellbeing.
“I don’t stand here and say this is perfect but we need to balance all of this to get schools back and get schools back in a way that doesn’t then set back the progress of the country overall.”
She added: “The most important objective that we are seeking go fulfil right now is to get all young people back to school full-time after the Easter holidays.”
This is more of a zero-hours contract for thousands of children.”
Jo Bisset, UsForThem Scotland
Parents’ campaign group, UsForThem Scotland, also branded the plans “derisory” as the details emerged from schools.
Jo Bisset, organiser, said: “This is more of a zero-hours contract for thousands of children.
“Pupils in England are now back enjoying full-time, normal education.
“It should be matter of utter shame for politicians in Scotland that they haven’t managed the same.”