THANK you to all our education staff at West Dunbartonshire Council, who are working so heroically in our school hubs.

However, the Scottish Government’s handling of how and when our children and young people return to school after the summer holidays, can at best be described as utterly shambolic.

The SNP’s appalling mismanagement over the last fortnight of the planned return to schools caused unnecessary confusion and upset to thousands of parents and pupils in West Dunbartonshire. I can only presume to imagine how exasperated our education staff must be with this unfolding farce.

Let me be very clear: the blended model previously proposed by the SNP council at West Dunbartonshire for the return to school on August 12, 2020 was not good enough.

Some of our young people were being offered as little as one day a week class time. Labour councillors did not and will not support this plan.

Stung by public criticism, John Swinney, the education secretary, performed the mother and father of all political U-turns and announced a 100 per cent return to class by August 12.

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Our education staff worked incredibly hard to produce a blended model of learning. Letters were issued to parents explaining this phased return. And with only a couple of days before our schools stopped for their well earned summer break, the SNP government panicked and dumped this ill-thought-out announcement on to local authorities.

The Scottish Government has provided no additional education funding to West Dunbartonshire Council during the Covid-19 crisis. Not a single penny. We at West Dunbartonshire have been hit harder than almost any other local authority in Scotland by the effects of coronavirus and we already face attainment challenges in our schools due to the high levels of deprivation – yet we have been cast adrift by the Scottish Government.

Our SNP councillors in West Dunbartonshire are not working hard enough to lobby their own ministers for extra cash for West Dunbartonshire’s schools. Without additional funding we face an incredible challenge to ensure our schools are safe for the return of our pupils and staff in August.

I share the concerns of our education unions. They see no evidence of any additional cleaning staff, cleaning regimes or cleaning resources within our schools. There is precious little time to fix this now.

John Swinney’s change of plan was delivered in a shocking manner, leaving our education staff no time to adjust and prepare properly. What a terrible way to treat those working in education in Scotland.