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by Jenni Davidson
16 February 2021
Phased return to schools to go ahead as planned on Monday

Primary school children - Image credit: Barry Batchelor/PA

Phased return to schools to go ahead as planned on Monday

The phased return of some pupils to school will go ahead as planned on Monday 22 February, the First Minister has confirmed.

Pupils in primaries one to three with return to the classroom, along with those in early learning and childcare, as will senior pupils who need to carry out practical work for National and Higher qualifications.

At-home lateral flow tests will be available twice a week to senior pupils, teachers and school staff.

Secondary pupils will also be required to observe two-metre social distancing in school and on school buses.

Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped to be able to set out the second phase of school re-opening in two weeks’ time, but it was “unlikely” there would be any further return to schools before 15 March due to need to assess the impact of this phase before making any further changes.

The First Minister emphasised that this was a change for school pupils only and did not indicate any other lifting of lockdown.

The success of this limited re-opening and the prospect of getting more pupils back to school later in March “very much depends of all of us continuing to abide by the wider restrictions”, she said.

Sturgeon warned that the key risk from opening schools was not transmission within schools themselves, but the extra contact between adults, such as parents socialising at the school gates or people returning to the workplace rather than working from home.  

She asked parents and employers to make sure this doesn’t happen.

“Please treat Monday’s important milestone as a return to education for children only and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us,” Sturgeon said.

“If we all do that, then I am hopeful that this return to school will be consistent with a continued progress in suppressing the virus.

“And if that does prove to be the case, I am optimistic that we will then soon be able to set out the next phase in the journey to school for more young people.”

Sturgeon emphasised that there was a “trade-off” and getting children back to school may mean everyone else living with restrictions for longer.

“Our room for manoeuvre still remains limited,” she said, adding that decisions must be “driven much more by data than by dates”.

However, the First Minister also revealed that the Scottish Government is preparing a revised strategic framework that will set out when and how the country might gradually emerge from lockdown.

That will be published next week, most likely on Tuesday.

The framework will set out on a “phased basis” the return to greater normality, the conditions that need to be met before restrictions are lifted and the “broad order” of opening, included what a return to geographical levels might look like.

But Sturgeon added that “caution will be necessary” and they will also be clear about what they don’t think will be possible in the near future.

As an example, she said that they were “very likely” to advise against booking any Easter holidays, even in Scotland.

While holidays abroad were still likely to be “impossible or inadvisable” in the summer, holidays within Scotland might be possible then, but it would depend on data nearer the time.

Getting back “as much normality as we can to life within Scotland” would mean significant restrictions on our ability to travel overseas, she said.

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