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Richard Lochhead, Stewart Stevenson and Jamie Halcro-Johnston react to school closures due to coronavirus

By Jonathan Clark

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POLITICIANS from all sides have come out in support of local teachers after it was announced schools would be closing from today with no exams to take place this year.

Plans to close schools were put forward on Wednesday, with Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney announcing plans to cancel exams for the first time in the history of the Scottish education system.

The move came as the number of deaths due to coronavirus in Scotland rose to six.

Moray's SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, who has two school aged children himself, said the shut down will protect staff and pupils, with arrangements in place to help vulnerable youngsters.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Education Secretary, at Elgin Academy with MSP Richard Lochhead. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Education Secretary, at Elgin Academy with MSP Richard Lochhead. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

He said: "The closure is to help prevent the spread of the virus and also because of the rising absence of staff and pupils. Arrangements will be put in place for the children of key workers, and to ensure those who need additional support receive it.

"The cancellation of school exams for the first time in history will understandably leave pupils in Moray shocked and very anxious about what this means for their future.

"It is important for pupils and families to know that an alternative means of certification is going to be put in place to ensure that no young person loses out.

"Our young people deserve to receive the qualifications they have worked so hard for and recognition of their effort. Teachers and staff and the authorities are now working together to ensure that no pupil is left at a disadvantage.

"We all need to rally round to support our young people, families, and staff at this incredibly difficult and tumultuous time."

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is set to use coursework, teacher estimation and prior attainment to decide grades. Teachers and other staff members will continue to work if fit and healthy.

Schools will also remain open for at-risk children, as well as those whose parents/carers are "key workers" in the battle with coronavirus.

Banff and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson described the plans as a "measure of the seriousness of the situation we face".

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan.
Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan.

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Jamie Halcro-Johnston said he is certain education staff will come through the current situation.

He said: "It is a measure of the unprecedented nature of this emergency that, for the first time in over a century, the decision has had to be taken to cancel school exams.

"This will naturally be upsetting for the pupils, their families and the teaching staff concerned, all of whom will have invested so much time and effort in working towards the exams.

"However, we must now look at the alternative forms of assessment available, some of which were outlined by the Cabinet Secretary, and to ensure the students concerned gain the qualifications and recognition that they need and deserve.

Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP.
Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP.

"I am very confident that our teaching staff and educational authorities will rise to the challenge."

More Moray news.

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