PARENTS and carers in Helensburgh and Lomond will be kept informed of plans to re-open the area’s schools after the summer holiday, Argyll and Bute Council has promised.

The local authority published plans last Friday for a “blended learning” model which would have seen primary pupils attend class two days a week from August 11, while secondary pupils would have been told either to do the same or to attend five days a week in alternate weeks.

But those plans were overtaken on Tuesday, when deputy first minister John Swinney said that if coronavirus can continue to be suppressed over the summer, and if scientific and health advice permits, schools should prepare to open as normal from August 11, with all pupils attending full time and no social distancing in place.

In a statement issued on Argyll and Bute Council’s website on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the local authority said: “While there will be a number of things to consider, the health and wellbeing of our pupils and staff will remain the council’s number one priority.

READ MORE: What Argyll and Bute's 'back to school' plans looked like before John Swinney's announcement

“In Argyll and Bute, education staff have put a huge amount of effort into preparing for a blended learning approach from August in our schools. We are ready to use this if required should the situation change.

“We will keep parents and carers updated as to plans for re-opening in August.”

In his announcement this week Mr Swinney said the government would spend £100 million on tackling the impact of the lockdown on schools and pupils.

He said: “I want to commend the work of local authorities and school and early learning and childcare staff across Scotland for the way in which they have responded to this emergency.

"They have worked tirelessly to protect the interests of our children and young people – through our childcare hubs, ensuring ongoing provision of free school meals, delivering remote learning, and planning for the next term."

READ MORE: Lomond School in Helensburgh announces August 'back to school' plans

The government has made it a "central planning assumption that pupils will return to class full-time in August", as long as infection rates are sufficiently low.

Reacting to Mr Swinney's announcement, Helensburgh and Lomond's constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie, said: "“I certainly welcome the much needed U-turn made by John Swinney.

"The previous guidance that the Scottish Government had issued to local authorities – and the plans that were formulated by West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute as a result – were not good enough for local children.

“These plans left parents wondering what the coming months would look like for themselves and their children.

"Teachers were put in the difficult position of not being able to deliver the level of teaching and support that they know their pupils need and pupils were being forced to continue to fend for themselves.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's food bank welcomes government pledge on free school meals during summer holiday

“I have written to both local authorities in our area asking them to immediately revise and reissue guidance to parents following today’s announcement.

"It’s not the fault of councils - there has been little leadership, guidance and money provided to them by the Scottish Government.

"But it really is time now that pupils, parents and teachers get the support and education that they deserve.”

West of Scotland Green MSP Ross Greer said it was vital to have regular coronavirus testing for teachers and school staff in place for when schools return.

Mr Greer said: “I know that many parents and carers in Argyll and Bute will be breathing a sigh of relief at the announcement of schools returning full time, but for many teachers, support staff and their families the news that all pupils will return with no social distancing is causing huge amounts of stress and anxiety.

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"Children may be at less risk, but they are not immune to this virus, and adult members of staff certainly are not.

“We simply do not know enough yet about how the virus can spread from children to adults in environments such as schools, so to give staff, pupils and parents some level of reassurance, the Scottish Greens are calling for regular testing to be available to all school staff.

"Regular testing of certain groups in other countries has been shown to significantly reduce infections.

"The Education Secretary confirmed that he was supportive of my proposal. With only a matter of weeks until schools return though, he must commit to make it a reality.

"Teachers deserve this reassurance before they return to the classroom.”

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