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Highlands and Islands MSP seeking answers on why some Highland Council schools were not ready to reopen

By Alan Hendry

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant.

A north MSP is seeking answers after it emerged that some schools in the Highland Council area are not opening today as had been planned.

Rhoda Grant, a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said she was "alarmed" to learn that the affected parents were told late on Tuesday that a number of schools were not ready to reopen – having been shut for nearly five months due to Covid-19.

She understands this is due to "challenges with the enhanced cleaning procedures and other issues relating to staffing and building works".

Mrs Grant spoke out after council leader Margaret Davidson announced today that eight rural schools across the region had not been able to open. These schools should be able to welcome their first pupils back "in the next day or two".

Mrs Grant has written to Highland Council and the Scottish Government ask why parents were given this news at such short notice and why these matters could not have been resolved during the summer holidays.

“I know there were issues about guidance regarding school opening but surely Highland Council must have known before 10pm last night that these schools would not open," she said. "It is not good enough that these parents were issued this news so late in the day and with very short notice find childcare.

"We know women are worse affected economically by Covid-19 and this does not help. I hope employers will be sympathetic."

Mrs Grant added: “Teachers have done an incredible job of getting ready for the return of pupils to schools. However, it is essential that the Scottish Government provide local authorities with whatever it takes for schools to reopen safely and to deliver learning effectively, including funding to employ more teachers and classroom assistants, to rent extra estate, to put on additional transport, and to pay for cleaning.

"If these closures were due to a lack of resources, the blame will lie firmly with the education secretary and the Scottish Government.

“My heart goes out to the affected parents, who I’m sure were anxious to take this step, and to the children who were excited to begin their new school year."

Earlier, Councillor Davidson had praised the work of staff and the council's executive team in reopening 96 per cent of schools from today.

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