The Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed that the Scottish Government develop and agree a multi-level framework for the safe re-opening of schools, giving teachers, parents and business an expectation of what each phase after lockdown will look like.
New Zealand's 4-level alert system specifies the measures to be taken with respect to schools. They are:
- Level 4: Educational facilities closed, with all schools engaged in some form of distance learning.
- Level 3: Schools (years 1 to 10) and early childhood education centres can safely open with appropriate health measures in pace, but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible, if a parent/carer is available to look after them and provided there they have access to distance learning. Years 11-13 learn from home.
- Level 2: Schools and early childhood education centres open for all children, with distance learning available for those unable to attend school, such as people self-isolating. Any facility connected to a confirmed or probably case of COVID-19 must close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.
- Level 1: Schools open, and must operate safely, with the same tracing and closure arrangements as level 2.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed that creating such a framework for Scottish schools will give some much needed certainty to teachers, pupils who are anxious about their futures, and parents and businesses who are considering what will be possible during the next phases of the virus response.
In a letter to the Education Secretary John Swinney, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP wrote:
"As the country considers how to move on from the lockdown, another overnight overhaul must be avoided. Parents, teachers and pupils must be afforded an opportunity to plan ahead as much as possible.
"I therefore want to draw your attention to the 4-level alert system that has been published by the New Zealand Government. This details a series of ‘levels’, alongside a description of what can be expected at each level with respect to schools. I believe that it is possible to replicate such a framework and set out the path to the new normal in Scottish education, and beyond.
"Even this limited foresight would enable parents and teachers to consider how they might arrange their lives and work during each alert level.
"Businesses and employers who are already struggling against wave after wave of disruption would benefit too. Projecting the availability of their workforce would enhance the plans many are already drawing up for recovery and reopening.
"Of course, any framework must have the safety of everyone involved above all else.
"The creation of a framework would enable healthy public debate and discussion about how learning can best occur in future - something you and the First Minister have spoken about. I urge you to work with partners including local authorities, representatives of teachers and other staff, and opposition parties, to develop and agree this."