Summer exams in Scotland may be cancelled for a third successive year as new Government guidance means that entire classes will have to self-isolate if even one case of the Omicron variant is detected. While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed her commitment to keeping schools open, she admits that there will be a “period of disruption”. The Times has the story.
While Nicola Sturgeon said she would “bust a gut” to keep schools open, leading educationalists warned that the new guidance was likely to be “highly disruptive of children’s education” and would inevitably damage their mental health.
It came as teachers’ unions called for the early closure of schools to “fend off a new wave of infection”.
The First Minister said that there would be a “period of disruption” but insisted that there would be no “blanket” closures of schools.
“Nobody wants that,” she said. “Of course, if there are outbreaks of infections in schools then there needs to be a response to that, but I’m very clear about the importance of minimising the disruption to children’s education.”
She said that under the new guidance “all household contacts of any Covid case should isolate for ten days, regardless of the vaccination status and even if they initially get a negative PCR test”.
The new variant, added Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, had an “attack rate” of 50%. “If you have a room of 100 people and a single unknown Omicron case is in that room, you could in the days after that, find 50, 60 or 70 positives,” he said.
The scale of the impact on education was laid bare during Sturgeon’s Covid briefing today when she was told that schools in Edinburgh had been advising parents that if one child tested tested positive for Omicron, all their classmates would have to isolate for ten days even if they tested negative,
Earlier this week, a primary school in Paisley closed because of an outbreak of the Omicron variant, and a secondary school in Irvine, Sturgeon’s home town, has reverted to blended learning for the S3 year group, because of “significantly high levels of staff absence”.
The latest advice on isolating would make a “woeful situation even worse”, said Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Educational Policy at the University of Edinburgh. “This new prospective disruption to students’ learning brings into serious doubt the fairness and viability of the exams next May.”
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