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Deputy First Minister highlights the role of parents in the safe return for schools

By David Porter

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Speaking today, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has stressed that a successful return to school for children can only be achieved with the help of parents and carers.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

At the daily address he said: "As you know, Monday will see children returning to early learning and childcare, and to primaries 1 to 3.

"In addition, a very limited number of senior phase students will return to secondary school, for essential work which is required for national qualifications, and which can only be done within school.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who are working hard to prepare for this return – that of course includes teachers, childcare providers, school staff and school leaders.Your efforts are hugely appreciated by me and by the Scottish Government.

"This partial return of education is an important milestone.

"And there are two specific points I want to make about it today.

"The first point concerns testing in schools.

"As senior phase pupils, teachers and school staff start to return, we will be making at-home lateral flow tests available to them, twice a week.

"Pilot testing programmes have been running in a small number of schools, in recent weeks.

"And we are using what we’ve learned from this, to roll the programme out across the country.

"As part of that, we have been working closely with the UK Government to get test kits into schools.

"This process has obviously been affected by the severe weather that we’ve experienced in recent days.

However, I can confirm that around 2500 schools have now received testing kits and we expectany remaining schools will receive their allocations either today or early in next week.

"On Tuesday, we issued comprehensive testing guidance to schools and to local authorities and we are working with YoungScot to provide online information and support for senior phase pupils who want to take part in the testing programme.

"This first phase of testing will include childcare staff based in schools.

"We are currently working through the practical arrangements for rolling out testing to childcare staff working in other types of nursery settings and we will provide further details on those arrangements very soon.

"Testing in schools is entirely voluntary – but I would encourage staff and pupils to take the tests, if you are offered them.

"The use of testing is a very important addition to the other safety mitigations which are already in place.

"Of course, the evidence suggests that the key risk in re‑opening schools isn’t transmission within schools and nurseries - but the greater contact it leads to, among the adult population.

He continued: "That brings me to the second point that I would like to make this afternoon.

"Parents and carers also have a really important role to play, in making the return of education a success.

"For example, if you have been working from home up until now, please continue to do so – even if your children are back at school or nursery.

"Your employer has a legal obligation to support you in doing that.

"Don’t use this return as an opportunity to meet up with other parents or friends and as a general rule, if you find that you are meeting up with more people than you were before, once your children have returned to school, then think about why that is.

"All of us should be minimizing our social contacts right now.

"In addition, when you are out of the house – at the schools gates for example - please remember to follow the FACTS advice.

"For all of us, that advice is perhaps more important now than ever before.

"We’re now dealing with a much more transmissible form of the virus.

"So we need to respond accordingly – by making it even more difficult for the virus to spread.

"These restrictions are really difficult – and I don’t underestimate that for a moment.

"But crucially, they are working.

"Case numbers are coming down – so too are hospital admissions.

"We need to see that trend continue – and so it’s vital that we continue to stick with the restrictions.

"That is how we keep the virus under control.

"So please continue to do the right thing."

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