Scottish government looks at ‘staggered’ return of students after Christmas

Scottish education secretary John Swinney has suggested the measure could ensure the safe movement of students around the country

Students in Scotland might not return to university after Christmas all at the same time, Scotland’s education minister has told the BBC.

Speaking to the Politics Scotland programme yesterday [25 October], John Swinney said “staggered returns of students so that they don’t all come back in one go” was one of the measures the government had been looking at to control the spread of Covid-19 around the country.

He confirmed that mass testing could be “part of the architecture of how we handle that return”.

Mr Swinney, who is also deputy first minister, said that the Scottish Government is “learning lessons from the experience of the early autumn.”

Scotland’s education minister and deputy first minister John Swinney talking to the BBC’s Politics Scotland

“Our priority is to make sure students can get home for Christmas. Obviously, that’s a complex undertaking and it involves cooperation across the four nations of the United Kingdom.

“We’re working closely together with the United Kingdom government and governments in Wales and Northern Ireland. We’ve agreed to have further discussions.

“What expectations we have of students when they are returning home and when they’re coming back into universities and how they will spend their time, how their learning will be undertaken – these are all issues that are being currently explored.”

Swinney added: “We’re working with institutions, because they have to be partners with us in how the learning is undertaken over that period, to make sure that we avoid any situation where there is too much strain either on the testing system or there is too much strain on the possibility of the circulation of the virus when students return or, for that matter, when they return to their homes in the first place.

“They could be returning to their homes where there may be inherent vulnerability in those homes amongst members of their family and we have to be very careful that we don’t take an approach which adds to that vulnerability.”

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