I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement. I, too, thank staff who work in all places of childcare and learning.
Yesterday, the First Minister commented that closing schools and nurseries is arguably one of the most difficult decisions that a Government will ever have to take. To that, I would add that a huge light has been shone on the importance of schools and nurseries and their role in society, especially in these extraordinarily difficult times.
I do not envy the Government for some of the difficult decisions that it has had to take today, and I know that not everyone will be happy with them. However, Conservative members commit their full support to the Government on the issue. We do that today and we will do that tomorrow and every day in this unprecedented crisis. [
I would like to pick up a few important points that have been raised in the statement. The first point relates to early years. On the assumption that the majority of publicly controlled nurseries are indeed closing, providers will be looking for absolute clarity on whether private, voluntary and independent sector nurseries are being told that they must close, and that they are able to stay open only if they offer assistance with childcare for key workers.
That leads me to the children of key workers in Scotland, which I accept is a fluid issue. Local authorities will have some flexibility, but parents will be asking where they will send their children and when, and how they will know whether they qualify.
My final point is about the important issue of SQA examinations. Given that exams are now not taking place, many parents and pupils will want to know how awards will be given, when grades will be awarded and whether that will be done in time for pupils to make the important move into further and higher education in the next academic year.