Overcrowded East Renfrewshire schools face greater social distancing problems when reopening

Overcrowded schools in East Renfrewshire could face greater difficulties when reopening following the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools will be expected to implement social distancing when pupils return after the summer holidays.

The Scottish Government has announced that pupils are likely to begin to return to schools on August 11.

However, when they do, East Renfrewshire could face more challenges than most local authorities in Scotland.

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School capacity figures for 2018-19 – the latest data available – indicate East Renfrewshire has the highest percentage of primary schools over capacity in Scotland.

Six of the area’s 23 primary schools exceeded their capacity. That’s 26 per cent of them and way above the average for Scotland of just five per cent.

The primary schools exceeding their capacity were Our Lady Of The Missions, Crookfur, Busby, Mearns, Kirkhill and St Joseph’s.

St Ninian’s High School in Giffnock also exceeded its capacity in 2018-19.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We carefully manage the rolls of our schools at all times to ensure we are able to deliver quality learning for all our children and young people.

“Once schools reopen for pupils we will ensure that all social distancing guidance is adhered to and are putting the required plans in place to ensure we are still able to maintain the highest possible quality learning experiences for all.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said: “The EIS believes it is unacceptable for schools to be operating above capacity under any circumstances, let alone during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This leads to larger class sizes which creates a higher workload for teachers and a poorer learning experience for pupils.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the C-19 Education Recovery Group (ERG) was considering all practical options on the reopening of schools.

The spokesperson said: “This includes consideration of any continuing need for physical distancing measures in settings to ensure safety, and the implications of that for school capacity.”