PARENTS who take their children out of school ahead of the end of term to try to avoid having to self-isolate over the Christmas holidays have been warned that normal absence procedures will apply.

Most schools in England will break up on Thursday, December 17 after the UK government agreed to extend the festive break to help ensure teachers do not have to “engage with track and trace issues” throughout the holiday.

Talks had been held about potentially shutting all Scottish schools on December 18 and reopening them again on 11 January. However Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, confirmed last week that there would be change north of the border amid concern a longer Christmas break could increase transmission out of school.

READ MORE: Glasgow schools face strike action threat over remote learning 

Teaching union the EIS had lobbied for blending learning to be introduced for the last few days to try to reduce the risk of Covid transmission ahead of family reunions over Christmas and has balloted for possible strike action in Glasgow over the issue. 

A spokeswoman for the union said the concern is that more parents will now choose to take pupils out of schools early, leaving children and young people with “no education” in the last few days of term.

The Herald asked councils in the areas which have recorded the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases if there would be any change in policy for non-attendance.

Both North Lanarkshire Council and East Dunbartonshire Council said they would be taking a more relaxed approach this year to non-attendance.

Ann Davie, Depute Chief Executive of East Dunbartonshire Council said: “We understand that some parents may choose to keep their child off school during the last few days of term. “This would be a decision for parents.”

However, the majority of local authorities which have faced the toughest restriction said normal policy procedures would apply and parents were being encouraged to send their children to school until the last day of term.

Glasgow City Council said it would be treating this year, “just like any other.”

READ MORE: School holidays: John Swinney under fire over decision not to close schools early 

A spokeswoman said: “Our families value the role that schools play in their child’s life and recognise the importance of coming to school. 

“If parents choose not to send their child to school at the end of term then they will be marked absent as they are normally.”

North Ayrshire Council said schools would “follow-up on non-attendance” ahead of the end of term and added: “Pupils in North Ayrshire are encouraged to attend school up until the end of term on Wednesday 23 December.”

Regional variations in term dates mean that while some Scottish schools break up on December 18, others are not due to finish until just two days before Christmas.

Renfrewshire Council said normal absence procedures would apply if parents chosen to remove their children before the end of term.

Families may opt to remove pupils early to isolate ahead of seeing elderly relatives on Christmas Day.

Susan Quinn of the EIS, said: “What we had requested was that they move to remote learning from December 18 to January 11 which would have given a clear week before the Christmas bubbles were starting and it gave a period of time, after the break to minimise transmission of the virus.

“We wanted to avoid the situation where anyone was going to be affected over the Christmas break. When we put in our request in Glasgow, we said that lots of young people won’t come in so the problem is they won’t be getting any education.

READ MORE: Higher exams axed: Union calls for prelims to be scrapped 

“If they had moved to remote learning then something would have been online for everybody. 

“Those who are off won’t automatically get any learning experience in that last part of term.

“There has been suggestions that community transmission is worse than school transmission. “We don’t necessarily agree that that is fully evidenced. 

“We see lots of schools where young people are having to regularly self isolate because they have been in contact with a teacher or classmate who has tested positive.”

Figures show some areas have experienced lower absence rates this year than in 2019 after the Summer break. In North Lanarkshire, last year, 128 pupils did not return to school after the break compared with 86 this year while Glasgow City Council said 88 pupils had not returned after the holidays.

A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: “As confirmed by the Deputy First Minister last week, our schools remain open until Tuesday, 22 December and our normal procedures will apply.”