No decision has been taken on when schools in Scotland will reopen, Nicola Sturgeon has said, after her Education Secretary said they are expected to be closed until after the summer holidays.
Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said information is not yet available to allow the Scottish Government to take the decision when to open schools in a “responsible, informed and considered way”.
Earlier, John Swinney said schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future, which is expected to be until at least the summer break is over.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme: “What I can say is that for the foreseeable future schools will be closed.
“We have taken no decisions to reopen schools and, as we said back in March, we expect them to be closed until at least the summer break.
“We are seeing the progress that is being made on slowing up the coronavirus just now but that’s on the basis that only one in every 200 children are in schools today.
“The minute we say more people can be in that school, we are acknowledging that the risk of the spread of coronavirus rises and we can’t afford to take that risk.”
Ms Sturgeon previously said she could not “promise” schools would be able to reopen before the summer holidays.
Answering questions from journalists at the briefing at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh, she said the position has not changed, adding ministers are “not robots” and sometimes articulate the same things in different ways.
She said: “Can I just be clear on the timetable for schools potentially reopening – we haven’t taken any decisions on that yet, we are not yet in a position to take that decision with confidence.
“What the Deputy First Minister said this morning is in line with the comment I made when we announced the closure of schools.
“If you recall back then, that was before the Easter holidays, and I said young people should not be expecting to go back to school after the Easter holidays and at that stage we could not guarantee that schools would reopen before the summer holidays.”
She added: “That remains the position but it is not the case that we have taken a decision that schools will not open before the summer holidays.
“That is not to say that they will definitely not going back before the summer holidays.
“That decision hasn’t been taken yet and it hasn’t been taken for very good reasons because we don’t yet have the information that would allow us to take that decision in a responsible, informed and considered way.”
The First Minister said her niece asked her daily when schools would reopen.
Mr Swinney also responded to concerns the lockdown will worsen the poverty attainment gap.
He told the broadcaster devices such as laptops would be able to be shared more widely and schools could use money to tackle the attainment gap with fewer restrictions.
The Education Secretary said schools have been told they can “exercise much greater flexibility” over the use of pupil equity funding and Scottish Attainment Challenge resources.
Mr Swinney also addressed Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) guidance to support teachers when awarding pupils’ grades this year.
Staff are to use their professional judgment to estimate students’ final grades, as examinations were put off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Swinney said: “The SQA have responded to this entirely unprecedented situation that we face by devising a system that’s based on the information provided by teachers, and teachers will have seen the progress that young people will have been making during their education.
“By drawing on the estimates that teachers make of the performance of young people, the SQA will be able to certificate and to deliver the awards that are necessary this year based on the preservation of the standards that are important at the heart of our exam system.”
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