EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has announced £50 million of funding for schools to employ hundreds of teachers and support staff to help schools re-open - alongside an extra £20 million for other costs.

But parents, union leaders and opposition politicians have warned that the cash pledge is not enough amid calls for the August 11 return date to now be set in stone.

Teachers

Councils will welcome the commitment of extra funding for around 850 teachers and 200 support staff to be recruited to help the re-opening of schools.

READ MORE: Hundreds of new teachers to be employed to help Scottish schools re-open next month

But as Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, pointed out, that accounts for only half a new member of staff per school across Scotland.

Earlier this week, the EIS union called for “every teacher in the country” to be recruited. So while the funding will be welcome, it falls well short of the demand of EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan, who sits on the Scottish Government’s education recovery group.

Will schools definitely re-open on August 11?

Councils and schools have been working to the August 11 return date for some time.

But the Scottish Government will not formally announce the August 11 return date until July 30. That sounds like officials will have scant time to make preparations but the uncertainty is no longer whether schools will re-open on August 11 but what could stop them re-opening as expected.

Mr Swinney stressed that in Scotland, the infection rate is “reducing by 30 per cent each week”, but a sudden surge in cases over the next few weeks could shift the Scottish Government’s confidence that it is safe to re-open schools.

Opposition MSPS are stressing that parents need certainty over the re-opening date – but nothing can be set in stone when relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But there will be nervousness, particularly amongst councils, following the fiasco that saw the controversial blended learning proposals reduced to a contingency plan following a U-turn by ministers, that the same may happen again.

Parents will also want that reassurance that they can return to work or arrange childcare as soon as possible – but will have to wait until next week for that firm confirmation.

Social distancing

Mr Swinney gave parents some much-needed details about the social distancing guidance that schools will be asked to follow – but some questions still remain over how this will work in practice.

HeraldScotland: Some pupils may have to socially distanceSome pupils may have to socially distance

While primary pupils will not have to socially distance when they return on August 11, all being well, secondary schools will be told to enforce physical distancing rules “where possible”.

Mr Swinney said this was due to the scientific advice on social distancing being “less clear” for older pupils.

READ MORE: Scottish secondary schools will be told to enforce pupil social distancing 'where possible'

Speaking of less clear, secondary schools will be asked to adjust the layout of classrooms and manage flows of people in and out of buildings – but with a catch. This social distancing rule in secondary schools will be “subject always to this not reducing capacity within the school”.

School transport

Before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, Scottish councils were struggling to meet budgets for school transport. As the costs are demand-led, local authority officials can’t easily control what is needed to be spent.

HeraldScotland: Dedicated school transport will be seen as an extension of the school estateDedicated school transport will be seen as an extension of the school estate

Councils will have been concerned that if social distancing rules were needed on dedicated school transport, costs would have soared further at a time when local authorities are struggling financially.

So Mr Swinney’s announcement that dedicated school transport will be seen as “an extension of the school estate” will be welcome news.

Youth clubs

As well as earmarking £50 million for school staff and £20 million to help councils meet extra costs in re-opening classrooms, £3 million of previously announced money will be used to support youth work in connection with schools being re-opened.

Mr Swinney said this funding has been announced as the sector has “continued to support and engage children and young people through the pandemic”, highlighting the use of digital technology to help mitigate the impact of the lockdown on young people’s mental health.