The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Scottish Tories call for ‘confusion’ over timetable to be fixed
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.”