Nicola Sturgeon extends face mask mandate in Scottish secondary schools

Scottish secondary school students must be forced to continue wearing face masks and their exams will continue to be graded more generously this year, SNP ministers have announced, as Nicola Sturgeon has rejected demands for a quicker return to school. the normality.

The Prime Minister told MSPs it was now ‘close to the time’ when face coverings would not need to be worn in classrooms, but her advisers had not recommended the change be made at once.

They will revisit the issue at a meeting next Tuesday, but it will likely be weeks before any changes are implemented – despite the abolition of face masks in English schools on January 20.

In her weekly Covid update at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said her government’s ‘basic’ restrictions, including the Covid passport scheme, would remain in place for another three weeks and pupils will have to continue to wear protective clothing. masks.

“Continued caution is prudent at this stage”

“Nobody wants young people to have to wear face coverings in the classroom for a while longer than necessary,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“But given the current uncertainty about infection trends in the immediate future and the relatively high levels of Covid in younger age groups, continued caution is prudent at this stage.”

However, she insisted the guidelines were relaxed to remove requirements for ‘bubbles’ or groupings within schools. Rules governing visitors and school trips are also relaxed.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, said: ‘Adults can be in pubs without masks, but young people are having their education stunted by being made to wear one in class.

The examination board “ready to be more generous”

Separately, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has announced that it is “ready to be more generous” in its approach to grading than in a normal year.

The SQA said it would ensure the ‘mark limits’ needed to get an A, B or C in each course would be lowered, but would be set to the ‘right standard’ to ensure students were ‘treated fairly “.

The agency added that “revision support” would be provided to students, including advance notice of what topics will be on the exam questions.

The SQA said it remains the agency’s “clear intention” that the exams will take place between April and June, and that they will only be canceled if public health restrictions are in place at the time which ban physical gatherings.

“Extreme disruption” in many schools

Although experts have expressed concern over the devaluation of Scottish qualifications over the past two years due to rampant grade inflation, Shirley-Anne Somerville, the education secretary, said the grade changes n were only fair given the continued disruption to schooling.

In a statement to Holyrood, Ms Somerville said: “Although the number of full and partial school closures has been low, it is clear that many secondary schools have experienced extreme disruption as a result of the omicron variant – in particularly in the first half of January – with regard to student and teacher absences.

“This set of measures is designed to ensure that our learners are fully supported in their learning and preparation for this year’s exams.”

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