A trade union has insisted school staff in Renfrewshire have been “left in limbo” after the Scottish Government revealed plans to get children back full-time in August.
Mark Ferguson, Unison’s branch secretary for Renfrewshire, branded the announcement given by John Swinney as a “political move” which has no scientific basis.
Mr Ferguson also accused the education secretary of giving parents a false sense of security.
Pupils and teachers in Renfrewshire had been preparing to return to a “blended” model of face-to-face and at-home learning from August 11.
Primary school children were given designated days to attend, while there were plans to have secondary school students in for ten blocks of two-and-a-half hours face-to-face teaching each fortnight.
But schools now face having to rip up those plans and prepare for a complete return to normality.
Mr Ferguson insisted it was wrong to get parents hopes up when there was still a lack of scientific evidence available to support the change and expressed concern schools would now have little time to change their preparations.
He said: “This announcement has come before any scientific evidence has been released, and so to raise parents’ expectations is not helpful.
“At a time when we are still implementing social distancing, to be suggesting pupils and staff can come back with no distancing alarms us greatly.
“It’s a total reversal of what we have been planning for. We have been taking risk assessments and planning for movement around schools and we are now going to have little time to revise this.
“It’s caused a lot of anxiety across our membership and it looks like this has been a political decision. This is a health pandemic and it should be treated as such.
“Our schools and the council have done a lot of work to prepare for the return in August and it’s all going to have to be undone. We were at the stage where it was looking like everything was going to be ready and I know the council will be as concerned as we are.
“Staff have been left in limbo at the end of term.”
Mr Ferguson, who is also the chair of Unison’s local government committee, said schools now face having to look again at their staffing levels to make sure full-time education could be delivered.
He added: “We will need to map out the workforce to see if we have enough staff in place.
“Our members will only return if we are satisfied it is safe.”
The Scottish Government said it will continue to prioritise the safety of pupils and schools may still need to revert back to the “blended” model of learning.
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Ministers have also vowed to inject £100million into helping schools recover from lockdown, which will include teacher recruitment.
A government spokesman said: “We are now able to plan for a full-time return to school because significant progress has been made in suppressing the virus.
“We have published the scientific evidence and public health advice that has guided our decisions so far and we will continue to do so.
“A new sub-group of the Covid-19 advisory group, established to specialise on education and children’s issues, met for the first time this week. The health and wellbeing of pupils and staff will continue to be our priority.
“Blended learning is a necessary contingency plan in case the virus gets out of control again. We know how hard councils, schools and teachers have been working on this – we can’t thank them enough.
“An additional £100m will be invested over the next two years to tackle the impact of lockdown on schools and pupils. Teacher recruitment will be part of that.
“The Education Recovery Group will continue to work with councils, parents, teachers’ representatives and trade unions over the summer.”
Education and children’s services convener, Councillor Jim Paterson, said schools starting back is good news.
He explained: “We welcome the news that our pupils and nursery children will be able to return full time if suppression of Covid-19 continues and national guidance confirms it is safe to do so.
“We are keen to access and share the guidance and safety measures that Scottish Government recommend when this is released and will provide that to our parents and carers and our staff.
“We are also reassured that we have the best possible contingency plans in place, should the guidance change, and that is thanks to the incredibly hard work of our school and early years staff.
“We have written to our parents and carers, and our school and nursery staff and will provide more information as soon as we can.
“Safety remains our top priority for our pupils and staff and we will have all necessary measures in place so that our school community is confident to return.
“We look forward to seeing all our children and young people after summer.”