Safe distancing in high schools will be 'limited', councils admit

There will be “limited opportunities” for high school pupils and staff to maintain safe distancing when schools reopen, the Children and Young People Spokesperson at council umbrella body COSLA has admitted.

Last week the Scottish Government advised that older pupils should maintain 2m social distancing when they return to school “whenever practicable”.

But at today’s virtual meeting of Holyrood’s education committee, councillor Stephen MCabe, co-chair of the Scottish Government’s Education Recovery Group said: “The reality is there will be limited opportunities to maintain social distancing in secondary schools.”

Education Secretary John Swinney then added safe distancing was a “precautionary principle” that shouldn’t be prioritised over full-time education. He later admitted the testing programme for teachers will not be ready for the start date of August 11.

Commenting, Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer said:

“The guidance around social distancing for secondary pupils and staff is as clear as mud. Most schools just don’t have the space or capacity to do this if every pupil returns full time next month, as they have been instructed to do. Schools have been issued two recommendations which are impossible to deliver at the same time.

“The single most effective measure, which would reassure staff, pupils and parents, would be to offer regular testing of all staff and older pupils. The Greens proposed this in June, as did public health experts. Instead, the Scottish Government are planning for ‘surveillance testing’ ie not regularly available to all staff and older pupils. And now we’ve learnt today that even this surveillance testing won’t be ready for schools returning on 11st August, which is frankly unacceptable.”