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Local authority begins planning for a 'careful and gradual' return to school from August 11 with all views taken into account

By Ian Duncan

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Highland Council is assessing the implications concerning teachers and other education staff returning to the workplace next month to prepare for the return to school on August 11.

The move follows the First Minister’s announcements on May 21 about the first stage relaxation of lockdown,

The council’s education committee chairman, Councillor John Finlayson, said: “The return to the workplace and Highland schools for our education staff will have to be undertaken carefully and gradually.

“I understand the desire for parents and pupils to know what plans and preparations will be put in place to enable the start of term on August 11; and that is exactly what our education staff will be working on in the coming weeks.

“While I understand parental and pupil anxieties, especially for those starting at school – at this stage and ahead of formal engagement with local head teachers, parent forums and communities – it is too early for the council to provide any finalised plans or proposals on what the return to school will look like for Highland families.

"It is important that the local circumstances of each school will need to be considered along with consultations with key stakeholders. As soon as that information is available schools and the council will promote this widely.”

Paul Senior, from the council's education and learning department, said: "There is a huge amount of preparation underway to return schools and our education settings in line with government guidelines.

"Before teaching and education staff can return to school, there are a number of measures we will be deploying to ensure that the views of Highland's head teachers, parents, carers and communities inform our plans.

"These will include rigorous risk assessments that will need to be carried out, to ensure that safe distance working practices and other risk prevention measures can be adhered, to that will enable staff to return to the workplace safely in environments that are as safe as possible to minimise the potential for risk.

"Then, as soon as jointly agreed, risk assessed back-to-school plans are in place, the Council along with our schools and settings will provide information to parents, carers and pupils on what the new normal will be like.”

Pupils and parents should check the news page of the council’s website, as well as social media, for updates on back-to-school information.

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