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Aberdeenshire education chief asks parents to be patient as secondary schools work out how to get pupils safely back to their classes

By Pat Scott

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The Gordon Schools, Huntly
The Gordon Schools, Huntly

ABERDEENSHIRE Council's director of education and children's services has appealed to parents for their support and forbearance as schools work out how they will accommodate pupils from March 15.

The First Minister announced on Tuesday a phased return to face-to-face schooling - a full return to primary schools from Monday, March 15 but the situation in secondary schools is more complex.

In addition to S4-6 students continuing to have time in school she said there should also be some time given to S1-S3 students.

Turriff Academy is set for building works in the next 12 months to improve the learning environment.
Turriff Academy is set for building works in the next 12 months to improve the learning environment.

Laurence Findlay, in a letter to parents said: "Two metre physical distancing will be required in secondary schools and this will have a significant impact on how many young people they can have in school at any given time.

"Across Aberdeenshire we have 17 secondary schools, all with different schools rolls and different capacities in terms of available space. Each school has different staffing availability. Each school will develop their plans for the period from March 15 until the end of term.

Ellon Academy.
Ellon Academy.

"Each school will decide on the number of pupils who can be in school each day based on available accommodation, staffing availability, transport availability and other constraints.

"Each school will have flexibility to deliver what is best for their learners based on the 2m physical distancing requirement. It should be noted, however, that only one third of the overall school roll is likely to be able to be accommodated in the school building at any given time given the 2m physical distancing requirement.

Inverurie Academy.
Inverurie Academy.

"A 900 student school will be able to accommodate no more than 300 young people at any given time. Some schools will have an imbalance in numbers across different year groups which will exacerbate the timetabling challenges they face.

"This should not be seen as a full time return to school. Given the 2m physical distancing requirements, any time in school between March 15 and the end of term will be minimal. There are only 14 school days between then and the end of term.

"Priority will continue to be given to senior phase students working towards SQA and other qualifications. Schools will prioritise the groups of learners they bring back into school based on their tracking and monitoring to date.

Mr Findlay says there will also be implications for remote learning.

He added: "Clearly more staff will now be needed in school settings and as such will not necessarily be available to support the remote learning. Schools will do what they can to continue supporting remote learning but the availability to support remote learning will be greatly constrained by the requirement for more staff to physically be in school.

Meldrum Academy are to hold their end of term awards ceremony online
Meldrum Academy are to hold their end of term awards ceremony online

"We will work with schools to augment in school learning with an appropriate outdoor learning and health and wellbeing package to support learner wellbeing where we have available staffing and facilities."

One metre social distancing is required on school transport which will place constraints on its availability and we will work with our colleagues in the Council’s transport team to consider how best these constraints can be addressed.

Mr Findlay concluded: "Schools do not get any advance notice of announcements and our response mechanisms reflect that situation. Technical guidance will be published by Scottish Government over the next few days which will provide further detail and clarity for schools to support their planning.

"Head Teachers will be in touch with their own local plans over the next couple of weeks."

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