Blended learning to return if Scottish schools holiday is extended

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Scots pupils are likely to return to a form of blended learning if the school holidays are extended over Christmas and the New Year period, John Swinney has said.

The Education Secretary is expected to confirm this week whether the winter break will be prolonged to three weeks, in move which would likely see all schools start their holiday on December 18.

Opposition leaders urged the Scottish Government to reach a decision quickly on the issue amid claims that parents are facing a "childcare crisis" over the proposed holiday extension.

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Mr Swinney told MSPs he was currently liaising with public health advisors and Education Recovery Group before reaching a decision on the issue.

"There's a range of views and no final decisions have been made," he told MSPs on Tuesday.

Blended or remote learning was "under consideration" to be used again – after it was rolled out when schools closed earlier in the year – for at least part of the extended break.

Mr Swinney said: "The question of whether or not the period which schools are closed at the Christmas period can either be extended by extending holidays or by putting in place requirements for remote and blended learning – certainly on that point my view firmly is that we want to avoid any sense of learning loss for young people as a consequence of an extension of the Christmas period.”

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Some schools in Scotland are scheduled to stop for Christmas on Friday, December 18, while others will be the following Wednesday.

There are some concerns among teachers that in the latter case, they may still be dealing with the impact of Covid contact tracing up until Christmas Eve or later.

The extra week being considered at the end of the normal Christmas fortnight would be to avoid "re-circulation of the virus" after the expected spike in transmission as more families get together over the five-day festive bubble period.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson said parents should be getting information in “good time” ahead of major Covid announcements to plan their lives.

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"There are parents in council areas across Scotland who are expecting their children to be in school until the 23rd of December and others who are expecting them to return to class on the 5th of January,” she said.

The changes being looked could mean a nationwide break-up in December 18 and no return until January 11.

“We’re already in December and workers with children need to tell their employers what’s going on,” Ms Davidson added.

“What provision is put in place for the children of key workers this Christmas who could be faced with a healthcare crisis in little over a fortnight’s time?”

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Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: "I do appreciate it is a decision which must be consulted on, but we are in December now.

"Parents, teachers, head teachers need to know - when will we hear?"

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that any decisions had to be “carefully considered” and driven by the latest evidence.

"I would hope that we would set out out conclusions on that some time over the course of this week to give parents due notice,” the SNP leader said.

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"We will take these decisions carefully given the factors at play.”

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