THE First Minister has today tried to address the concerns from “anxious” parents and students about the impact of coronavirus on schooling.

Speaking about plans for Scottish youngsters to return to school from August 11, Nicola Sturgeon said there should be “no doubt” about the priority the government is giving education – to “make sure young people do not lose out on education or have their life chances damaged”. 

It comes as no new coronavirus deaths were reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours – the third time the figure has remained the same since lockdown began.

A total of 2448 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, no change on Sunday’s figure.

The death total previously remained the same on June 7 and June 8 -  but the First Minister stressed that deaths are lower at weekends.

What did the First Minister say about education?

1. ‘Maximise’ in-school learning

Ms Sturgeon says ministers expect councils to put in place arrangements that “absolutely maximise” the amount of time youngsters spend in school.

The majority of pupils from Scotland have not been in the classroom since March.

“The Scottish Government will be scrutinising council plans very closely,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Where we conclude all possible steps have not been taken to maximise face to face teaching and learning, we will ask councils to reconsider and revise their plans.

“Where there are genuine issues of resources the Scottish Government will work with councils to address those.”

2. ‘Blended’ learning for less than a year

The First Minister said she wants 'blended learning' - where kids have a mix of in-school and at-home education - to be no longer needed by the end of the next academic year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our aim will be to return to normal schooling as quickly as we possibly can, recognising that along the way we must build the confidence of parents, young people and teachers that schools are safe.

“It is absolutely not the case that we are planning for blended learning, with children learning at home for part of the school week, to last a year or anything like it.

“On the contrary, we do not want blended learning to last a single second longer than is absolutely necessary, so we will be working with councils to return schools to normal as quickly as we can.

“We want young people to be back having face-to-face teaching for 100% of the school week as soon as it is feasible.”

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3. Next year’s exams?

The First Minister made clear it was the Government’s “clear intention” that exams will go ahead in in 2021.

This comes after comments from Education Secretary John Swinney, who revealed local authorities are being given guidance to gather evidence of grades in case exams cannot go ahead.

4. Holidays cancelled or weekend schooling?

After being questioned by journalists on the issue, the First Minister said the Scottish Government would not rule out cancelling further school holidays, including the October break, to allow pupils to maximise time in class.

Likewise, Ms Sturgeon added they also will not rule out opening schools on a Saturday if there is evidence it will help. 

5. Regular reviews

The Scottish Government’s regular three-weekly reviews of coronvirus restrictions will now include specific consideration of the evidence and data relating to transmission of the virus within schools and young people, she added.

She pledged: “Where that suggests that safety and restrictions can be lifted or eased without putting pupils and teachers at undue risk we will do so.”

The Scottish Government’s International Council of Education Advisers will also consider the experience in out countries, Ms Sturgeon added.

Nicola Sturgeon went on to state the Scottish Government would be working with councils to ensure “enhanced support” is available “for any time that young people do spend learning at home”.