26 June 2020

This week sees the end of the school year. Thanks to Covid-19, this year’s P7 cohort haven’t been able to enjoy, as previous pupils have, that end of term feeling that comes with leaving the familiarity of primary school while preparing to transition into secondary school. It’s the same for children moving from nursery to primary.

The uncertainty of what the next academic year holds is a little less though after Tuesday’s announcement by the Education Secretary, which is all subject to the appropriate safety measures being in place and continued suppression of the virus.

Teachers and education staff across Scotland have spent the last few weeks making plans for blended learning. The Education Secretary says that time has not been wasted, with the new emphasis on 100% classroom time.

Just 10 days ago we were told that blended learning would be the norm for the foreseeable and the maximum face to face classroom time would be around 50%.

Now, when schools return in mid-August the aim is for full-time schooling. Parental pressure, and anger, clearly had a lot to do with the change of mind.

That the government is now aiming for full-time normal schooling is welcome, though it would be helpful to see the scientific advice behind the dramatic shift in ambition. That work might help allay some of the anxiety that exists.

100% is still very much conditional. Should the virus not continue to be suppressed come August then the contingency plan of blended learning, which was until Tuesday the only plan, will be needed.

Coronavirus has made us all look at how we do things and adapt to new ways of working. Instead of going back to how things used to be, we have the opportunity to make long-lasting improvements and make things better. Teaching is no exception.

There’s a hint of renewal along Commercial Street as flower baskets are put up, shop exteriors painted, and health and safety adaptations made to cope with a virus that will be with us for some time to come. Consumer confidence is essential if the diversity of local retailers is to be maintained.

The loss of hotel jobs and the lack of longer-term funding to support them through crisis highlights the fragility of local accommodation providers. Opening up for tourists on 15th July is good but the access arrangements to transport to allow people to travel here needs a more joined up approach.

With the relaxation of some restrictions last week some grandparents found themselves in an unfair situation. Visiting family on the Mainland while sticking by the guidance might mean a day trip to Aberdeen is all that’s possible. Meanwhile, a single grandparent could join up with extended family in Shetland while grandparent couples can only meet their grandchildren outdoors. As one grandparent told me, it doesn’t work well for children under five or in the Shetland climate. They feel abandoned by the government.

Parliament is in recess now until 11 August but constituents can still get in touch via e-mail [email protected] or ring 01595 690044.

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