Falkirk Council awaiting Scottish Government approval for back to school plans

Falkirk Council has put its back to school arrangements on hold as it waits for approval from the Scottish Government.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 16th July 2020, 7:30 am
Falkirk Council was planning a 'soft start' for pupils after the holidays.
Falkirk Council was planning a 'soft start' for pupils after the holidays.

The council had agreed to a ‘soft start’ to the school term that would bring pupils back to the classroom over two weeks, with primary one and S1 pupils arriving first to settle in. 

After a meeting of the council’s emergency executive, parents should have been told the details last week — but it is understood they will now have to wait until a Scottish Government group agrees what will happen nationally.

The latest delay was agreed in an emergency meeting with the three party leaders in Falkirk.

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But it may well be that Falkirk Council’s plan to ease the youngsters in gradually will be rejected.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “There is always the possibility of government making changes, as we have seen frequently over the last few months, making planning for return to anything challenging.

“There has been a very strong and sensible argument put forward for the ‘soft start’ approach.

“On the other side there has also been significant parental pressure to get the kids back to school and into full-time education.

“If we have to, we will adapt the plans accordingly, but we are mindful that a child’s welfare is just as important and possibly more so in getting back in to full-time formal education.”

Falkirk Council apologised for the confusion and promised to update parents as soon as possible.

Parents always knew that any final decision on whether schools will return full-time or part-time would be announced at the end of July.

But some parents believe that should not stop them making arrangements — even if they have to be changed.

One local dad, who has been campaigning for Falkirk Council to keep its 1140 arrangements, was disappointed with the news and the lack of communication from both council and government.

Gary Wilson, who has a six-year-old and a three-year-old, said last week’s meeting had provided “much-needed clarity” — but that had now gone.

He said: “With only a month to go parents are simply not being given the support and information we need to try to plot a way back to normality whilst juggling what is best for our kids.

“The ongoing uncertainty is having a negative impact on families and cannot be in the national interest in terms of trying to get people back to work.

“Surely in order to help parents and employers at least try to plan for the months ahead it should be possible to commit to the intended path sooner, subject to the understandable caveats regarding control of the virus.”

Falkirk’s plans to phase pupils’ return to school were attacked by the Scottish Conservative party.

Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative shadow 
education secretary, said: “This will be deeply disappointing for parents as it appears that the SNP’s school reopening plan is in total confusion.”

Local Conservative 
councillors, however, had backed the plan which was also approved by the SNP and Labour members of the 
committee.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to plan for the start date of the new term to be August 11.

“It is practical and sensible for schools to hold in-service days at the start of term to prepare for the return of children to school, particularly this year when children and young people have been away from school for so long.

“We will agree with local authorities a clear date by which we expect any such in-service days to have been completed, and all children welcomed back into schools.

“As the First Minister made clear, it is important that parents are kept up to date and the Deputy First Minister will update Parliament on the Education Recovery Group in the coming weeks.”