Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned that parents of school-age children face many more months of disruption.
Mr Cameron issued his warning after questioning the First Minister earlier today (Thursday May 21) about what she meant by “blended” learning, which is the form of education the Scottish Government is prescribing for schools when they finally open again on 11th August.
“The primary objective has to be to keep our children safe. In her response to my question, Nicola Sturgeon said that social distancing at school would have to continue, and acknowledged that this would be very challenging for everyone concerned.
“Blending in-school learning with home-schooling is going to be very testing indeed, especially for families with one or both parents working.
"Government is going to have to invest a lot of time and effort in ensuring that the right educational support is in place and that all school-children can digitally access learning materials, which I fear is not the case at the moment.
“Minimising disruption for our children across the Highlands and Islands is going to be critical, as well as getting them back into the rhythm of school life after many months of absence.”
Today in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the nation to explain the Scottish Government’s routemap that will guide the country out of lockdown.
The routemap gives practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time. If the evidence shows transmission of COVID-19 is under control and the number of infectious cases continue to decline the Scottish Government will consider moving to Phase 1 of the route map, following 28 May.
The NHS Scotland test, trace, isolate and support system – known as Test and Protect - will be ready for expansion in all 14 health boards from 28 May. A plan agreed between councils, professional associations and parent representatives to partially reopen schools from 11 August, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so, has also been published today.
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “As the First Minister indicated today, we all know that we can’t live this way forever and we all want to get back some sense of normality.
“The route map laid out today by the First Minister clearly sets out the steps that will take us there. It also leaves the door open to regional variation, if that best meets the particular circumstances and needs of the areas concerned.
“It is important to stress the need to move out of lockdown in a careful and controlled manner. There is a great deal of anxiety in island communities about inward travel, especially from urban areas, and any easing of the travel restrictions has to be done in a gradual way.
Isles MP Angus MacNeil has also welcomed the Scottish Government’s route map.  “The unpredictable nature of coronavirus makes it difficult to set exact timescales and we must take gradual steps to ensure the virus is kept under control.
“It is important to remember that we remain in lockdown and restrictions will not change before the 28th May.”
“Meanwhile together with Orkney Council Leader James Stockan we have been having exploratory discussions to develop testing with companies who might be able to offer cheaper and quicker testing.  This would ensure Covid-19 is not in our communities and that it is kept at bay, which would give further confidence after lockdown is eased.”
Under the road map, says the Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce (https://outerhebrideschamber.co.uk/covid-19/) :
Phase 1: Remote working remains the default. Reopened workplaces should stagger start times and flexible working. Outdoor workplaces can resume with physical distancing. Reopening of housing market with restrictions. Gradual reopening of drive-through food outlets, garden centres and plant nurseries (not cafes). Construction sector implement first two phases of its restart plan.
Phase 2: Remote working remains the default. Indoor, non-office based workplaces can resume with physical distancing (factories, warehouses, labs). Housing market restrictions relaxed. Construction sector moves to later phases of restart plan. Previously closed small retail units reopen with physical distancing. Outdoor markets, pubs and restaurants can open outdoor spaces and events such as marriages allowed with physical distancing, hygiene measures and controls on number of people.
Phase 3: Remote working remains the default. Indoor office workplaces including contact centres can reopen. Larger retail to open. Pubs and restaurants can open indoor spaces. Personal retail services including Hairdressers, Galleries, Cinemas, Gyms can all open subject to physical distancing and hygiene measures. Relaxation of restrictions on accommodation providers and live events permitted with restricted numbers and physical distancing.
Phase 4: Remote and flexible working remains encouraged. All types of workplaces would be open in line with public health advice. Shop local still encouraged. Further relaxation of events, gatherings and occasions with necessary precautions.