Coronavirus Scotland: Unions of teachers welcome the closing of schools

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The leaders of the teachers’ union welcomed the news that Scottish schools would remain closed until at least February 1 – but called for a “cautious approach” to continue in the absence of clarification about the effect on children of the current Covid 19 pressure.

Nicola Sturgeon announced that until at least Feb. 1, schools across Scotland would remain closed, citing high levels of community transmission and a lack of details regarding the current strain of the virus.

The new strain, which is estimated to be up to 70% more transmissible, now leads to nearly half of the new cases confirmed in Scotland – while the nation now has a 15% test positivity rate – three times the average set by the World Health Organization.

Coronavirus Scotland: schools until February to remain closed

The decision to close schools will be reviewed by ministers until mid-January on Feb. 1, when the closure could be further extended.

The First Minister has suggested that as soon as it is considered safe to do so, primary and nursery schools will reopen before secondary schools.

Nicola Sturgeon takes Scotland back into the lockdown of ‘sit at home’

EIS Secretary General Larry Flanagan said, “Teachers in Level 4 areas have already been more concerned about school safety and the rise in infection rates driven by the new variant will have increased that concern, particularly as it seems clear that children can be infected as easily as anyone else by the new strain, with subsequent transmission occurring as well.”

Since social distancing of students in crowded classrooms is physically difficult, it is therefore the right decision to turn to distance learning if we are to reduce infection rates in the community effectively. Suppressing the virus is key to re-opening school buildings safely.

“He added, “While the education system is better equipped than during the initial lockdown to provide education remotely, challenges remain and we need to ensure that all students have fair access to learning, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We have raised with the Scottish Government whether vaccination of school staff should be a priority so that school buildings can reopen to all pupils.”

NASUWT Teachers’ Union General Secretary Dr. Patrick Roach said, “We welcome the announcement by the First Minister that schools will remain closed until at least Feb. 1 for all children except those in key jobs who are at risk. During this difficult time, this will provide some relief for many highly concerned teachers, parents, students and school staff.”

Although the NASUWT has always advocated that schools remain open to all students as long as they are safe to do so, it is obvious, as the First Minister herself today admitted, that the danger of the new Covid variant has greatly increased the risks to the health and well-being of students, teachers and the wider community, and that the only safe course of action at this time is to move on to the health and well-being of students, educators and the wider community.

“The First Minister explained that significant uncertainty about the impact of the new variant on children, along with the overall high level of virus transmission in the community, guided the decision to extend the period of distance learning,” he said.

It will now be crucial that the review of the school closure on January 18 by the First Minister continues to be informed by medical and scientific evidence on the effects of the new variant, with the protection, wellbeing and well-being of children, youth and school staff as a priority. To protect health and welfare, the very careful and preventive approach outlined today must be preserved.’

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