BLANKET school closures may be imposed in Scotland after the Easter holidays in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, according to the boss of a leading teachers’ trade union.

Speaking exclusively to our sister paper The National, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of teaching Union the Educational Institute for Scotland, said that contingency plans being drawn up by the trade unions, local authorities and the Scottish Government are aimed at keeping schools open until April 3 when the current term finishes. Schools would be due to return on April 20 or 21 depending on local authority area.

He said: “The spring break is only a couple of weeks away. There is a hope to get to the spring break without blanket school closures and then if incidents of the virus have increased, it may be necessary to close all schools.

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“The thinking is at the moment it may be too early to close all schools and it wouldn’t necessarily be doing anything to stop the virus spreading, and it could in fact encourage the spread of the virus as in schools, children are in a more regulated environment than at home when they go out with their pals.”


Scientists believe the weeks to come will see infection rates swiftly increase, reaching a peak from between early spring and early summer, depending on how quickly the virus spreads.

The first death of a coronavirus patient in Scotland was confirmed yesterday, as the pandemic saw all football matches postponed and other events called off, and the number of patients with the infection rise.

Flanagan said guidance is due to be published by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) – a body made up of trade union, local government and Scottish Government officials, detailing what plans would be put in place over the coming weeks.

They include, he said, plans to amalgamate classes and redeploy teachers from closed schools to neighbouring ones which are open. He also revealed it may be possible for pupils to take SQA exams – due to begin in April – even if schools were closed.

“There is an SNCT advice note going out ... which is largely based upon the previous advice for swine flu. It’s been updated,” he said.

“It deals with things such as if one particular school is closed, teachers will be deployed to another school which is open. Classes could be amalgamated, which wouldn’t normally be allowed to happen because of regulations over class sizes.”

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He added: “The bottom line is, if the advice is that school closure is regarded as useful, we have discussed what that would mean in practical terms. Staff are fast-tracking revision packages for young people, which means if schools do close ... most of the pupils will get those packages home over the Easter holidays.”

He went on: “The exam diet starts the end of April ... if we are in a situation where there are general school closures, it may still be possible to arrange for the exams to go ahead.”