Covid in Scotland: Keeping level 4 schools open is vital for pupils wellbeing

Covid in Scotland: Keeping level 4 schools open is vital for pupils wellbeing

John Swinney has defended the decision to keep schools open in areas which are being moved to the toughest level of lockdown restrictions.

The deputy first minister said it was “absolutely central” to the wellbeing of children and young people.

It comes as more than two million people are to be placed in level four of Covid restrictions from Friday.

Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants will be forced to close in 11 areas across central Scotland.

Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the EIS, has called for blended or part-time learning to be introduced to reduce levels of infection.

But Mr Swinney insisted public healthcare evidence showed schools were “not contributing significantly” to increased cases.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The number of positive cases amongst pupils represents 0.1% of all pupils.

“So that’s why I say the schools are not a significant area of transmission.

“The level for teachers is no different to any other workforce in that category – varying between about 4% to 7%.”

The EIS has asked its members in Scotland if they would consider strike action over Covid school safety concerns.

The union is surveying members on the prospect of industrial action as Covid-related absences hit a new high.

The latest Scottish government statistics show that Covid-related pupil absence levels hit 4.2% on 10 November, but only 758 of the 29,486 absent pupils had Covid-related sickness.

Absence levels are higher in secondary schools, where they stand at 5.3%, compared to 3.3% in primary schools.

Almost 30,000 pupils were off school last Tuesday, according to the latest provisional data.

Schools in England – where similar lockdown restrictions are already in place – are continuing as normal.

Mr Swinney said steps had been taken in schools to strengthen the physical distancing and face covering arrangements.

“This is at the heart of our advice that we avoid transmission between adults and pupils – and adults and adults – in our schools.

“We have robust arrangements in place to make sure that is the case but we constantly monitor those to make sure that all of the appropriate measures have been taking place.”

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