Nicola Sturgeon defends keeping schools open through Covid after union vote

NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted it is “right” that schools in Scotland stayed open this term, as teachers again raised concerns over safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pupils across the country have continued attending classes, even when 11 local council areas were placed under the toughest Level 4 Covid-19 restrictions.

The EIS teaching union has reiterated its calls for the Scottish Government to consider blended learning – where youngsters learn remotely from home for part of the school week.

General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Our members want to be in schools working with pupils – but they also want pupils and staff to be safe. The Scottish Government’s rejection of remote or blended learning for schools in areas with high rates of infection has increased the level of risk for pupils, teachers and their families.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to rethink this damaging policy, with the danger of increasing rates of community infection throughout the winter months.”

The EIS has published new papers highlighting teachers’ concerns.

These include difficulties with social distancing in classrooms, face coverings “not being worn consistently” in secondary schools where senior pupils and teachers are required to wear them, and fears from some that case numbers in schools are not being recorded accurately.

But the First Minister stressed the Scottish Government will “continue to listen very carefully to the concerns of teachers and others”, she added the reports support the view “it has been right for schools to remain open”.

She cited new reports from Public Health Scotland as backing up the Scottish Government’s stance that schools should remain open. Speaking at her regular coronavirus briefing, she said the figures show “almost two-thirds of schools have not had any pupil cases of Covid”.

Around 620 children aged between two and 17 are currently diagnosed with coronavirus every week in Scotland – a rate of 70 per 100,000 children, Public Health Scotland found.

Speaking about the impact of the virus on school staff, Sturgeon said the experts had found “no evidence of any difference in the risk of hospitalisation for teachers when compared to the general population”.

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