Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

The answer to the question about why there is no guidance yet is that we are working on it. Through the education recovery group, the Deputy First Minister is working on the guidance to ensure that we take account of all relevant scientific advice. It is important that we do that in a careful and considered way. Some local authorities might well decide to have a situation in which younger people have a softer start into full-time education, because they have been away from school for four months. However, the absolute intention is that schools will open full time from August.

The final point that I will make on this, which is probably the most important one, is that the ability of schools to reopen full time from August is dependent on our continuing to suppress the virus. The thing that would put that most at risk is if I were to give in to some of the requests I get—not exclusively from those on the Conservative benches, but mainly from them—to speed up the exit from lockdown. That would jeopardise our suppression of the virus and would do more than anything else to compromise our chances of getting education back full time.

If anyone is feeling frustrated about the pace of exit from lockdown, they should remember that the prize that we are aiming for is getting our children back into full-time education in August, so let us stick with it.