Return date for pupils in Scotland still under review

Teachers and parents will be given 'as much notice as possible' on full reopening of school buildings
30th December 2020, 4:18pm
Henry Hepburn

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Return date for pupils in Scotland still under review

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/return-date-pupils-scotland-still-under-review
Nicola Sturgeon Schools Reopening Safety (copyright Holder: Pa Wire Copyright Notice: Pa Wire/pa Images Picture By: Jeff J Mitchell)right Notice: Pa Wire/pa Images Picture By: Fraser Bremner/scottish Daily Mail)

The planned return of all pupils to school on 18 January is still being reviewed, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said this afternoon.

She made the comment after telling the Scottish Parliament that the new Covid-19 strain is "fast becoming" the most dominant one in Scotland.

The first minister said: "That is a concern as it's thought to be significantly more transmittable."


Also today: Calls for teachers to work from home until pupils return

Background: Fears over school safety as Covid surges

In England: New school opening delay agreed by ministers

Opinion: 'Teachers should stand tall as they prepare for 2021'

A year like no other: Who is the Tes Scotland person of the year for 2020?


Ms Sturgeon also said today that the Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid vaccine will be given to people in Scotland from Monday. 

That news came after Scotland recorded more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, a record figure for the second day in a row.

When Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard asked for clarity on when a decision would be made on the date for full reopening of schools, Ms Sturgeon said the government would be assessing the situation over next few days and would give parents and teachers "as much notice as possible".

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie queried how hard the 18 January target date is for the return of schools, and whether safety considerations could see it changed. Ms Sturgeon responded that "safety will always be the driving imperative" and that "we will not compromise on safety".

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray asked how evidence of the new strain of the coronavirus being more infectious to children would affect the first minister's decisions on reopening schools fully. Ms Sturgeon replied that it would make her "even more cautious".

FM @NicolaSturgeon says she cannot rule out even tighter restrictions than those in level 4.

She will also continue to assess whether to open schools on 18th January - though this remains the current plan.

Live updates ➡https://t.co/7G2TzB6VLH pic.twitter.com/VSCoXQ2mtQ

- BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) December 30, 2020

Mr Leonard, the Labour leader, also pressed the first minister on why school staff were due to return to their workplace, even though routine testing is still not in place and they have not yet been deemed a priority for vaccination.

Ms Sturgeon replied: "First, we are working on plans for greater use of testing in schools once the new term gets under way. We have already been doing that, and the health secretary has shared some details of it. Secondly, on vaccination, as I am pretty sure Richard Leonard knows, it is not politicians or governments who decide the order of priority for vaccination; we accept recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It comprises the experts, and they tell us, on the basis of what they know about the protections that the vaccines give, the correct order of priority. We will continue to take those recommendations, and, if they suggest a different order of priority, we will reflect that in our planning."

Earlier today, a teaching union told education secretary John Swinney that teachers should not be working in school buildings until pupils are also back.

In a letter sent to Mr Swinney today, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) said it was "a matter of urgency" for Mr Swinney to ensure that school staff work from home until the full return of pupils in schools.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon had said earlier this month, when announcing that most pupils would not return to school buildings until Monday 18 January at the earliest, that teachers would still return as planned from Tuesday 5 January or later that week.

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