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The leader of Scotland’s largest teaching union has said it will not be business as usual when pupils return to the classroom on August 11th. Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, spoke after John Swinney claimed Scotland could be “very significantly” into the final phase of easing lockdown by then.
Plans were drawn up for a “blended model” of learning by Nicola Sturgeon’s administration last month which would have seen pupils attending classes for some of the week and learning from home the rest of the time.
However, the move was slammed by parents as some councils suggested that young people could potentially be in school for as little as one day a week.
But Mr Swinney told MSPs on Tuesday that schools will be able to reopen to all pupils from August 11 so long as the spread of the disease “is sufficiently low to provide assurance that we can continue to control the virus”.
However the move was branded by opposition politicians as the “mother and father of ministerial climbdowns”.
Mr Flanagan said: “We need to be absolutely clear that it would be a fundamental error on the part of the Scottish Government, our employers, parents, or indeed anyone, to believe that Covid-19 will have gone away in August and that it will be business as usual for schools. It will not be.
“If that is a politically inconvenient truth for anyone, it nonetheless remains a truth.”
The union boss stressed that teachers were left frustrated that Mr Swinney’s announcement was made so close to the end of the school year.
This comes after they had “worked so hard to prepare for a blended learning model for reopening”, Mr Flanagan claimed.
He added: “Teachers, including heads and deputies who will have had to take a lead in many areas, are now heading into a summer where uncertainty will be in the air with a whole set of other planning requiring to be tackled.
“Essentially it is a ‘maybes aye, maybes naw’ scenario as ultimately the decision is dependent on where the level of Covid-19 infection will be in seven weeks’ time.”
He stressed that the change of approach was a “political announcement” saying it is not an “agreed outcome” from the COVID Education Recovery Group that was established by ministers.
He also stressed the union’s red lines for teachers to return to school, insisting there must be “demonstrable evidence that the virus is under control”.
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But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that plans must be adaptable to deal with changes in the fight against COVID-19.
At today’s daily briefing, she said: “If you ever hear me say ‘here’s a fixed plan that we will not change regardless of what happens with the virus’, then know that I’ve stopped doing my job properly.
“You have to plan for the most likely scenario and then if it changes you have to be adaptable.”
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