THE council has been urged to decide by the end of the month whether it intends to bring schoolchildren back full-time on August 12.

Councillor Chris McEleny says a final call on whether pupils will return to complete normality next month, or have a temporary period of transition using the blended learning model, is needed soon.

The SNP man’s comments come after Falkirk Council indicated its schools would not return to full-time teaching for the first two weeks of the new term, to allow children to adjust to being back after four months away, although the local authority has since put those plans on hold.

Last month, education secretary John Swinney announced schools should prepare to reopen on a full-time basis, despite laying out a part-time model of school and home-based learning just days earlier.

Cllr McEleny, who sits on the education and communities committee, says bosses must come to a conclusion swiftly to give parents appropriate notice.

He said: “It’s a difficult situation and there isn’t a simple answer.

“However, I would say a decision needs to be made by Inverclyde Council fairly soon and I would hope that would be by the end of the month.

"We do not want to leave this decision too late in the game. 

"If we do not go back full-time, we need to give notice to parents.”

Mr Swinney has stated that pupils should be able to return to the classroom full-time if transmission of Covid-19 remains low, but he has also stressed authorities will still need to keep the blended learning model as a contingency plan.

Falkirk felt a ‘soft start’ to schooling initially would help children readjust and also assist them in getting to grips with new infection control measures.

Mr McEleny says he can see the benefits of a gradual transition but stressed full-time education was the best way forward.

He said: “If an adult was off work for that amount of time it would be completely normal to expect a phased return, so I think there is a sensible argument for this.

“But I also think we really do need to have schools back full-time.

"We’ve been in lockdown for many weeks now and we’ve still got five weeks of the school holidays to go.

"If we cannot get kids back full-time, it’s bad news for parents in terms of mental health and childcare.

“I have been speaking to parents and I get mixed opinions - some say it would be better to have some sort of transition period but others say we’ve got to get kids back full-time. 

“Whatever decision we make, it has got to be safe and in the best interests of families.”

A council spokesman said: “Further guidance is due from the Scottish Government soon and we will take that into account before making any final decisions.”