Full-time schooling in a pandemic – looking back at Term 1

October 14, 2020 by 6 Comments | Category Schools, Young people

No one could doubt the challenges that lay ahead when schools opened in August. We were asked – and we asked ourselves – how could pupils possibly safely return to full-time learning in the middle of a global pandemic?

Well, they could and they did.

Now, with most of Scotland’s children and young people on the autumn break, we can reflect on what has been a truly extraordinary effort by teachers, school staff, local authorities, parents, and pupils.

For everyone involved, this term was uncharted territory. Guidance, published with the Education Recovery Group, set out the measures that needed to be in place to keep pupils and staff safe. It has not been easy – enhanced cleaning, risk assessments, physical distancing where appropriate and for some, the use of face coverings.

But the broad picture is of an education system that has successfully returned to full-time learning.

Last month, Ministers heard from the Health & Safety Executive, who carried out a programme of checks to monitor compliance with the guidance. They told us that, overall, the schools they visited were doing “a great job” in implementing the guidance.

Inevitably, it’s not all been plain sailing. Some pupils and staff have had COVID-19. But in the vast majority of cases, it was contracted outside school, and where issues have arisen, quick action has been taken at local level to address them.

School attendances have been positive. Attendance rates since 8 September have been generally close to the 2018/19 average of 93.0%’.

Before and since the start of term, our teachers have been nothing short of heroic. They have worked tirelessly with pupils to begin making up for the learning time that was lost during lockdown and to get a good start on this year’s coursework.

Our school staff, from cleaners to janitors and catering assistants, have ensured schools are safe, welcoming places. As well as thanking them, I’d like to extend my gratitude to parents for their support. For many, myself included, it was hard, after so long in lockdown, to see our children leave the safety of home and go back to school. Parents have played a vital part in building confidence in children and in encouraging them to comply with necessary health measures, whether that’s making sure a clean face covering goes in the schoolbag every day or checking that hand hygiene is being followed.

As for the pupils themselves – the pandemic has been hard for all of us but particularly so for children and young people. I do not under-estimate that and pupils’ mental, as well as physical, wellbeing, is at the heart of our guidance for schools. The bravery and resilience of our young people at the hardest of times has been admirable.

Sadly, the challenges of coronavirus have not abated. In fact, they are increasing and we cannot predict the coming weeks and months. But this term has shown what can be achieved with a massive joint effort from our whole school community. Never before has a break been so well-deserved.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister



  • Lynda Jones says:

    Continuing the use of hand sanitizer in each classroom + pupils toilets + school entrance would help prevent spread of virus. Sanitizer has now been limited to tutor classes only for pupils use which isn’t mentioned in the risk assessment reports. No social distancing, no hand sanitizer won’t prevent virus spreading.

  • Koushiti Mondal says:

    Truly great team work of the school staffs. I as a parent did my best to maintain hygiene of my child to make sure he can continue school.My heartfelt gratitude to the school head of Garnet Bank Primary school who always suppoted us and helped to reduce our mental stress in this pandemic.In this covid increasing scenario lets give our best efforts again and make term 2 succesful as well.May God keep all of our children safe and healthy.

  • Norah Valentine says:

    College s forgotten again! Our students have other worries and work to a different timetable. Let down not once by the education system, but twice. On the back burner again, or a fleeting thought all through this pandemic. Not to worry – like the admirable work of teaching and support staff in schools to get our young people back on track, college staff have our students’ best interests at heart and are working hard for them too. Just as well eh Mr Swinney!

  • p skelton says:

    1. Large amounts of pupils are having to self isolate – therefore missing school work especially practical work online work can only do so much.
    2. With 20 pupils in a class then class interaction with pupils at 2 metre distances is impossible – these kids need help to carryout practical work safely
    3. Other industries have perspex screens to SEPARATE staff from the interactions with the public
    They insist on vastly reduced numbers of people that come into contact with irrespective of age YET SCHOOLS DO NOT HAVE THE SAME OPTIONS
    4. Schools are not the safe environment that is being portrayed- In secondary schools there is No social distancing within school corridors. With a sizable amount of pupils not wearing face coverings
    5. CORRIDOR DOORS ARE NOT ADEQUATELY CLEANED a quick wipe with the same cloth doesn’t in my mind sanitise a door handle or stair banister properly.
    6. Schools cannot purchase PPE equipment from our pecos suppliers – there is none to be had
    7.No decision on the delivery of practical subject areas. This is being left to individual schools to deliver some sort of reduced delivery – the SQAs response is still very unclear and doesn’t go far enough this will lead to smaller class sizes in independent schools having a clear advantage
    8. There is no alcohol wipes provided and disinfectant will damage equipment this is required for sanitisation of shared equipment – this includes computer equipment , machines and tools in technology .
    I am a teacher in a secondary school with over 30 years of experience in my opinion we as a profession have not been consulted properly – Track and trace does not know where the virus was transmitted. There is no temperature checks for staff ,There has never been any PPE for staff

  • Anna Harper says:

    I agree that the majority of pupils and staff are attempting to adhere to the guidelines; however, there are a sizeable number who choose to ignore the requests to wear masks and maintain social distance where possible.
    In order to protect the health of the majority I wonder if the government could consider making mask wearing mandatory in all areas of schools apart from classrooms….it would make it so much easier for staff to ensure compliance.

  • Irvine Royal Academy says:

    Can you get all schools and high school to get people not to sit next to someone or there friend

Leave a comment

By submitting a comment, you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy policy to see how the Scottish Government handles your information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *