I AM sure that teachers, parents and pupils would agree that the school term which finished at the end of June was one of the strangest ever.

The challenges presented to schools when John Swinney announced that all schools would close at the end of March was not one for which anyone was really prepared.

Teachers had to come up with plans to ensure that their pupils were given both academic support and pastoral care at a distance. Keeping students focused and engaged becomes much more difficult when you can’t see them in person. Our teachers have tried to make the very best of an awful situation and their students are lucky to have them.

And let’s not forget the parents who suddenly became teachers too. Overnight, parents were given the responsibility of home schooling their children. Parents had to balance their new role whilst either working from home themselves or – for many parents – whilst navigating furlough, redundancy and huge financial uncertainty.

However, just as teachers were beginning to feel on top of the situation, and after schools had spent weeks formulating plans to see a gradual return to the classroom, the Scottish Government announced that all previous plans were to be scrapped and a full return to the classroom would happen in August.

Only 24 hours before John Swinney’s announcement, West Dunbartonshire Council had sent an update to all parents, laying out plans for pupils to return to school for just one or two days a week. This left parents unable to forward plan and many had to contact their own employers to say that they could not return to their workplace as planned.

The levels of stress and uncertainty that West Dunbartonshire’s plans created for all involved turned out to be unnecessary, given John Swinney’s “mother and father of U-turns”.

The lack of communication between the council and the Scottish Government is evident, given the completely conflicting announcements which came out only hours apart.

I hope that both West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Government learn from this and avoid creating such worry in the future.

There remains much work to do to prepare for the return to school including taking safety precautions and arranging school transport. None of it can be done on the cheap.

Our schools need the resources from government to deliver and to do so safely. And our teachers and pupils deserve nothing less.