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Covid-19 (Education)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am grateful to Mr Gray for his support for the difficult decision that we have made and for his tribute to teachers and all the other workers in the education system, because these have been very challenging days for them, given the level of anxiety and the fact that we have managed to sustain education provision to the extent that we have. The fact that, today, we have only 16 schools closed out of 2,500 is a significant tribute to the efforts of those individuals.

In response to Mr Gray’s questions, I note that Education Scotland is fully involved in supporting individual schools and local authorities in the continuation of educational provision. Indeed, in my letter, which has probably now been issued to local authorities on my behalf, I have set out the support that is available from Education Scotland at the local level. It is important that it provides that support to individual schools and local authorities in order for the approach to be effective.

On Mr Gray’s point about key workers, we have to be careful to strike the right balance, and I tried to address that in as much detail as I could in my statement. There will be different challenges and different requirements in different parts of the country. There will be a universal requirement for healthcare workers to be involved because of the nature of the challenges that we face, but it is important that we provide sufficient flexibility for local communities to be able to take decisions that will enable individuals to make their contributions to the efforts that we need to be undertaken.

Local authorities have asked us for that degree of flexibility, and we are actively working to make sure that that is clearly understood at the local level so that we can maximise the number of individuals who can be supported to make the contribution to the efforts that we need them to contribute to.