The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Scot­tish Tories call for ‘con­fu­sion’ over timetable to be fixed

- POLITICAL EDITOR Society · Education · British Politics · European Politics · Politics · Scottish Conservatives · Scottish Government · Edinburgh · Scotland · Nicola Sturgeon · John Swinney · Scottish Parliament · Tories · University of Edinburgh

TOM PETERKIN

The Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives have called on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to make an “emer­gency” Holy­rood state­ment on plans to re­open schools on a part-time ba­sis dur­ing the Covid-19 cri­sis.

Tory ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Jamie Greene made the de­mand, claim­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was fac­ing an “un­prece­dented cri­sis” af­ter the con­tro­ver­sial “blended learn­ing model” was fur­ther crit­i­cised.

Pro­fes­sor Lind­say Pater­son, of Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, claimed the at­tain­ment gap be­tween Scot­land’s rich­est and poor­est pupils will be made five times worse by De­cem­ber un­der the ar­range­ment.

For­mer first min­is­ter Lord McCon­nell warned the pro­pos­als could prove more dam­ag­ing than the ex­ams cri­sis of 20 years ago when 2,000 chil­dren were given the wrong re­sults.

Par­ents raised con­cerns the model will be detri­men­tal to their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion, but will also pose ma­jor prob­lems as they try to get back to work.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon called it a “con­tin­gency” plan last week, but Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary John Swin­ney had ear­lier im­plied schools would be un­able to be fully op­er­a­tional due to so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Mr Greene said the con­fu­sion had to be ad­dressed be­fore the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment winds down its busi­ness over the sum­mer.

“The lack of am­bi­tion and clar­ity over school plans is not just in­fu­ri­at­ing, it’s down­right ir­re­spon­si­ble.

“Teach­ers are de­mand­ing an­swers, and par­ents are fran­tic with worry.

“By agree­ing to an emer­gency state­ment, at least some of the ques­tions could be an­swered.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokeswoma­n said 25,000 lap­tops and in­ter­net ac­cess worth a to­tal of £9 mil­lion are go­ing to dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren, learn­ing hubs for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and key work­ers will re­main open in sum­mer, and added that “meet­ing the learn­ing needs of pupils from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds con­tinue to be a pri­or­ity as we plan for the safe re­open­ing of schools”.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, coun­cils and teach­ers are work­ing to­gether to de­liver the best ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for our chil­dren.

“Sub­ject to the agree­ment of the Par­lia­men­tary Bu­reau, the gov­ern­ment in­tends to make a state­ment to Par­lia­ment on ed­u­ca­tion this week.”

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