SCHOOLS will return full-time in August if Scotland continues to make progress on suppressing coronavirus (COVID-19), Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced yesterday.

And the announcement was welcomed by Kinglassie MSP Jenny Gilruth and Fife Council's Education and Children's Services convener Fay Sinclair, with the 17 primary schools in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area and Beath and Lochgelly High schools set to resume when the new session begins.

The moves come after significant progress was made in reducing incidence rates of the virus, putting Scotland on a more positive trajectory than previously expected.

As a result, the Scottish Government has now made it a central planning assumption that pupils will return to class full-time in August. This is conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to control the virus, public health and testing systems being in place and protective measures and risk assessments being carried out in schools.

Mr Swinney also revealed that an additional £100 million will be invested over the next two years to tackle the impact of lockdown on schools and pupils, including ensuring every current probationer teacher who meets the standard for full registration having a teaching post for the year ahead.

Mr Swinney said: “If we stay on track, if we all continue to do what is right, and if we can further suppress this terrible virus, then the Government believes that we should prepare for children to be able to return to school full time from August.

“A return to full time schooling would enhance the life chances of our children and young people and start to reverse any damaging impacts of recent months.

“I must stress: this is the aim that the Government is now working towards. However, because it has to be achieved safely, it inevitably remains conditional and dependent upon ongoing scientific and health advice.

“But it is a change born out of the hard work and sacrifice of people in every part of the country, sticking to the guidance, staying at home and suppressing this virus. In particular, we should highlight the many people who as parents have supported their children while continuing to hold down jobs and caring commitments."

Councillor Sinclair said: "This will be very welcome news for families across Fife.

"As a working parent of three young children I know how challenging these past three months have been and as we head into a few weeks of well-earned summer break it is a relief to be preparing for a return to something much more closely resembling ‘normal’ in August.

"It was right that we explore contingency plans, and if there is another rise in Covid-19 cases we could still need to fall back on that blended model, but I’m really pleased that we are now preparing for full time in-school learning from August".

Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP, Jenny Gilruth, said: “My thanks goes to the united effort of people across Mid Fife and Glenrothes, and Scotland, who have stuck to the Government’s advice on Covid19.

"We have now made significant progress in the fight against the virus and as such, John Swinney, confirmed in the Scottish Parliament chamber that full-time schooling will resume from August – if we continue to make progress in suppressing coronavirus. This is an important step not only in ensuring our young people get the education they deserve, but it’s also positive news for working families.

“I want to send my gratitude to our amazing teachers and school staff in Fife who have helped us get to this stage. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but this SNP Scottish Government continues to work hard to support families and communities across the country.”