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School transport proves problematic

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By Fiona Reid
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School transport proves problematic

EDUCATION officials are facing headaches over school transport ahead of the planned full time return to schools in August.

Although no physical distancing will be required in schools, it could still be in place on public transport and that is a problem, said education director Dr Gillian Brydson.

She told councillors yesterday that if that’s the case, they would only be able to offer 27 per cent of transport places to children. Dr Brydson described the situation as ‘challenging’ and said: “We are not going back to normal because there are a lot of caveats regarding transport and good practice around hygiene. If no distancing is in place that is a much more practicable plan. If it’s required on transport the numbers are eye watering: we would need 100s of drivers and lots of buses, we won’t get them.

“The worst case scenario for me is that distancing stays on transport and then we can transport 27 per cent.”

However, she revealed that half of all parents have said they can help take their children to school, described by Dr Brydson as ‘wonderful bit not long term’.

She also told the meeting that the region now has two plans for schooling: a full time return and the blended learning model as a back up. And the final decision on which to use will be made next month when, and if, the Scottish Government announces a move to phase four.

Dr Brydson said: “I welcome the Scottish Government announcement but there’s a lot of detail yet to be worked out. We are on track to be on phase four in August and based on the advice, we are moving forward in our planning for a full return.

“But we all recognise that the health advice may change, so it’s wise to continue to have contingency plans in place. We are in a public health emergency so there’s a lot of uncertainty, it comes with the territory.” She added: “The planning for blended learning has now been done and won’t be wasted. We have two plans.

“We still don’t have any notification of when in July the phases will be reviewed but we are keeping that date in mind.”

Council leader Elaine Murray said: “While I welcome the proposals to return to full time education in August as better for children, there’s still an awful lot of details to be worked out.”

And education committee chairman Cllr Jeff Leaver added: “I would like to thank everyone involved in delivering home education. It’s been very difficult and everyone responded very well. “The return plan we had was probably one of best plans in Scotland, but this is now the contingency plan.”

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