Full reopening of schools delayed again

School buildings in Scotland will not be reopened fully until at least mid-February – and there may be a phased return
19th January 2021, 2:38pm
Henry Hepburn


Full reopening of schools delayed again

Coronavirus: The Full Reopening Of School Buildings In Scotland Has Been Delayed Until At Least Mid-february

School buildings in Scotland will not reopen fully until mid-February at least, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish Parliament.

The date has been pushed forward from 1 February, and may involve a phased return - the idea of senior secondary students returning first has previously been mooted. The situation will be reviewed on Tuesday 2 February.

Ms Sturgeon also said, however, that there were "cautious grounds for optimism" when looking at issues such as case numbers.

Also today: Lockdown shows why teachers need more preparation time

Nicola Sturgeon: Phased return of schools possible

Coronavirus: Prioritise teachers for vaccination, union says

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, the first minister said that the risks of community transmission of Covid-19 had forced the Cabinet to delay the full reopening of school buildings.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Cabinet decided today that - except for vulnerable and key worker children - school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February."

Coronavirus: Phased return to school posssible

The situation will be reviewed on 2 February, Ms Sturgeon said, adding: "If it is at all possible, as I very much hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to in-school learning in mid-February, we will."

BREAKING: School and nursery buildings to remain closed to most children until at least mid February.

FM @NicolaSturgeon says this will be reviewed on 2 Feb when she hopes to provide firmer timetable for a return.

Live updates ➡https://t.co/Z8UO2Y2fUl pic.twitter.com/eDRwEz8tg1

- BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) January 19, 2021

While taking questions after her statement to Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said that the online provision of education was "much better" than during the first lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions, in general, are to be extended until at least the middle of February in Scotland.

The first minister said that Covid-19 case numbers have "stabilised and even declined", but that any relaxation of lockdown while cases remain high could "quickly send the situation into reverse".

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: "That means that the lockdown restrictions - including the strict stay-at-home requirement - will remain in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February."

Nicola Sturgeon says community transmission is too high to allow a safe return to school

She says she is grateful to school staff and knows how stressful online learning is for families

She also acknowledges that the situation is difficult, distressing and damaging for pupils

- Emma Seith (@Emma_Seith) January 19, 2021

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: "With rates of community transmission still high, the Scottish government has made the correct decision in maintaining the current models of provision for schools to drive down the R figure, which we regard as a prerequisite for schools reopening. While the EIS wants to see schools fully operational as soon as possible, this can only be achieved when it is safe for all students and staff to return, which means full consideration of the evidence on the new variant and its transmissibility amongst young people."

Mr Flanagan added: "While home learning brings many challenges for pupils, parents and teachers, the indications are that the vast majority of students are engaging positively via remote learning with appropriate support from teachers, parents and carers. The EIS would call, however, for the rapid employment of supply teachers currently seeking work to provide additional support to those pupils struggling to engage with remote learning."

Scottish Greens @patrickharvie asks what additional measures will be put in place to protect teachers and pupils when schools do return.@NicolaSturgeon says there needs to be a reduction in rates of community transmission.

Live updates ➡https://t.co/Z8UO2Y2fUl pic.twitter.com/DAgDO6AJUe

- BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) January 19, 2021

Mainland Scotland was placed into lockdown on 4 January to tackle the rising spread of the new coronavirus strain.

The measures include a legally enforceable stay-at-home order. All non-essential shops, pubs, cafes, bars, gyms and hairdressers are closed and travel restrictions prevent anyone leaving their local authority area, with limited exceptions.

Giving an update on vaccination numbers, Ms Sturgeon said that, assuming vaccine supplies meet expectations, Scotland will be "on track to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week by the end of February".

She said that more than 90 per cent of care home residents, 70 per cent of care home staff and 70 per cent of all frontline health and care workers have received their first dose of a vaccine.

"That means that in around three months' time, around 3 million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine," she said.

"This is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition."

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