South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has branded the Scottish Government ‘disgraceful’ for refusing to help struggling local authorities pay for their back to school plans.

As councils across the south of Scotland prepare for children to return to school in August, the Scottish Government has refused to come up with the money they will need for costs such as extra school transport and more cleaning.

Colin Smyth has also warned that the government is lacking ambition in its return to school plans, and while councils are doing the best job they can given the challenges they are facing, much more needs to be done to get children back to school for as much of the week as safely possible.

The local MSP believes that proposals for one or two days a week from councils don’t go far enough and believes no pupil should be in school less than 50 per cent of the week in the short term, with a move back to as close to full-time schooling as soon as possible.

Colin Smyth said: “Our hard-pressed councils are working around the clock to ensure children are able to restart their education in a safe way, but they have one hand tied behind their back by the Scottish Government.

“The fact that the government has not come up with a single extra penny to help our schools to properly restart safely is disgraceful.

“Education departments are now faced with the daunting task of providing extra cleaning and more pupil transport from their already squeezed budgets just to get children back in school two or three days a week.

“The government is seriously lacking in ambition when the reality is we need children back in school after the summer holidays for as much of the week as possible not one or two days.

“No child should be in school less than half of the week and even that should only be short term, with a return to as close to full time education within a matter of weeks, not a year as the government suggests.

“Why is the government not funding councils to use other buildings and bring back retired and supply teachers to ensure we can get kids back in more than half the week sooner rather than later. The government was quick to find funding for other areas during the pandemic so why not education, which is supposed to be their number one priority?

“Schools aren’t childcare but it is going to be impossible for parents to return to work when their children can’t go back to school. Home learning is good in theory but in practise we know it is no substitute for school and the attainment gap is in danger of becoming a chasm as kids who are already behind will fall further.”

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