A TEACHERS union has hit out at a decision not to provide an extension to the school holidays over the festive period in Scotland.

The expansion being considered which would have resulted in all schools being off from December 18 – the date on which some local authority areas were due to break up for Christmas anyway. Under the plans pupils would not have returned to school until at least 11 January.

But Mr Swinney has said he has written to the education and skills committee “to confirm that the government intends to make no change to the school holiday arrangements”.

This has upset the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, which wanted an extension to the break, either by lengthening the holidays or the introduction of blended learning at some points.

Commenting on the decision, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Many teachers across Scotland will be disappointed and angered at the Scottish Government decision today, which once again shows a complete disregard for the concerns and welfare of teachers.

READ MORE: How 'blended learning' has returned to Scottish schools

"The EIS had asked that schools move to remote learning in the final week to ensure that senior staff did not find themselves having to work during the Christmas break to deal with any COVID outbreaks and also to minimise the risk for staff, pupils and parents of infections ruining the Christmas break.

HeraldScotland:

"Allowing this would have helped protect staff, students and their families during the festive season and reduce the risk of pupils or teachers being required to self-isolate over Christmas – while also ensuring that education provision continued via remote learning.”

In his letter to the Scottish parliament's education and skills committee Mr Swinney said that on balance, the public health advice was "there would be less transmission of Covid-19 through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school".

He also said that being in school was "a very significant protective factor for the most vulnerable children" and "the need for childcare for key worker children" was a consideration - as were the "significant difficulties" working parents would face if the holiday dates were changed.

He acknowledged it was "vitally important" school managers got a "proper break", with the requirement to support contact tracing activities over the holiday period "minimised". Some councils were arranging for teams or individuals to be "on duty or on call over the relevant period", he said.

But Mr Flanagan said: “It would appear that this yet another political decision by the Scottish Government, which may thank teachers but is unwilling to listen to them. The EIS would call upon the Scottish Government to make lateral flow tests available to school staff, so that those hoping to share some time with potentially vulnerable family members can do so without fear of putting loved ones at risk.”

Child welfare campaigners UsFor Them Scotland welcomed the decision saying  families would be grateful.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said: “Parents across Scotland will be relieved at this news and pleased the Scottish Government has listened to them.

“Taking children out of school for another week would have damaged their education at a time when it’s never been under greater threat.

“It would also have caused parents a severe headache in terms of childcare, especially those who rely on shift work for income.

“The Scottish Government has been right to keep schools open in the face of pressure from the unions, and parents will be very grateful for this latest commitment to education.”

Notes to editors: