Scottish secondary students back full-time after Easter

Nicola Sturgeon acknowledges the return will cause ‘concern and anxiety’ among school staff but says safety ‘paramount’

Emma Seith

Covid: Secondary school students will go back full-time after Easter in Scotland

Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has confirmed that virtually all Scottish pupils will be back in school buildings full-time after the Easter holidays, with the only exception being children who are shielding.

Today Ms Sturgeon announced the return of secondary students and the removal of “strict two-metre physical distancing between pupils” in secondaries after the Easter break.

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In Scotland, P1-3 pupils returned full-time in February, and in March P4-7 returned full-time.

Secondary students, however, have only been able to return part-time, given that two-metre distancing was a requirement. That has now been scrapped but Ms Sturgeon said schools were being asked to “strengthen other mitigations”.

Covid: The full-time return of secondary school students

There are fears that senior students will now face an assessment treadmill as schools attempt to gather the evidence they need to support estimate grades. However, Ms Sturgeon said “there is no requirement to replicate a full exam or prelim this year”.

She said: “A lot of young people have raised concerns about whether they are effectively going to have to do something that replicates a full, formal exam. There is no requirement to replicate a full exam or a prelim this year – teacher judgement is at the centre of this.”

However, on social media teachers, students and parents responded angrily to her comments - with the Scottish Greens' education spokesman, Ross Greer, saying the comments verged on "gaslighting teachers and pupils".

Announcing the full-time return of secondary students, Ms Sturgeon said: “Having assessed the data with the input of our clinical advisers, when the Easter holidays end virtually all pupils will return to school full-time, so secondary schools after Easter will go back to in-person, full-time learning.

“The one exception to this is children that are on the shielding list. We are continuing to recommend that they stay at home until 26 April, and that’s in line with the advice already received from the chief medical officer.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “This, I know, will be a huge relief to many children and young people and, of course, to many parents and carers, and, as I said a moment ago, by the end of April we want to see children on the shielding list get back to school in person as well.

“I know, though, the return to school, particularly for older pupils, will cause concern and anxiety to pupils, to parents and, of course, to teachers and others who work in schools, so let me give an assurance that we will continue to give paramount consideration to safety.

“The return to school will involve, as it did last August, the removal where necessary of strict two-metre physical distancing between pupils in secondary school, but we are asking schools to consider how they strengthen other mitigations.

“For example, we have committed almost £400 million of funding to help with education recovery and I know that many councils have been using some of this funding to monitor and improve ventilation in schools. In addition, twice-weekly lateral flow testing is already available for all school staff in primary, secondary and special schools and also for all secondary school pupils and I would encourage as many staff and pupils as possible to make use of that testing.

“Through these measures and others, the government, schools and local authorities will do everything possible to ensure that the return to school is as safe as possible and, of course, with every day that passes, more and more adults – and that will include more and more teachers and more and more people who work in schools – will be receiving the vaccine as well.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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