The majority of primary and secondary school pupils will continue with remote learning until at least mid-March while children in early learning and childcare (ELC) and primaries 1 to 3 will return full-time to classrooms from Monday 22 February.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that only strictly limited numbers of children and young people will return to classrooms next week, backed by strengthened school safety guidance and enhanced testing for staff and senior pupils.
Very limited numbers of S4 – S6 pupils who require to complete practical work in order to achieve an SQA certificate will also return from Monday. Pupils currently in classrooms – primarily the children of key workers and those considered vulnerable – will retain their places.
As part of the move, Ministers announced a package of support and safety steps including:
A further £40 million to help councils implement safety mitigations aligned with clinical advice
£60m of additional investment in education recovery, including employing more teachers, classroom support staff and facilities management
Twice weekly at-home testing to be offered to people who work in schools, early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, and senior phase pupils. Comprehensive testing guidance has been issued to schools and local authorities, and by the start of this week, more than 2,200 schools had received test kits, with deliveries to remaining schools continuing throughout the rest of this week. The programme will be expanded to stand-alone childcare settings as soon as possible thereafter
All secondary pupils will be required to observe two-metre physical distancing while in school and on school transport in the period immediately after the return. This is in addition to existing measures including the use of face coverings
Ministers also confirmed hopes that further detail on the next phase of school return could be provided on 2 March.
Ms Sturgeon said
In terms of the order in which we exit lockdown, the Scottish Government has always made clear that education should be the priority. I can confirm today that, in line with the advice of our expert group, this first phase of the re-opening of schools will go ahead as planned on Monday.
We will need to monitor the impact of this change very carefully before taking any further decisions. However, I hope we will be able to set out the second phase of school re-opening in two weeks’ time. I want to be clear, though, that the need to properly assess the impact of this limited re-opening means we do not envisage, at this stage, any further return to school before 15 March.
As we consider these issues, we are of course doing everything we can to ensure that schools are as safe as possible for children, and for the education workforce. We are also publishing today updated school safety guidance, developed with the Education Recovery Group. This sets out a range of additional safety mitigations.
And to help implement them, we will be providing local authorities and schools with an additional £40 million, as part of a wider £100 million package to accelerate school recovery. The Finance Secretary will confirm details later this afternoon. The success of this limited re-opening, and the prospect of getting more pupils back later in March, very much depends on all of us continuing to abide by the wider restrictions.
So, for now – and I really cannot emphasise this point strongly enough – 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.
A further update is being published today on this year’s national qualifications. National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams 2021 have been replaced by an alternative certification model based on teachers’ judgement of evidence of each individual pupil’s attainment. The National Qualifications Group 2021 has agreed to extend the deadline for submitting provisional grades from 18 June to 25 June.
In recognition of the additional workload, this will bring, teachers and lecturers involved in the delivery, assessment and moderation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Highers will receive an exceptional one-off payment of £400. There will also be two assessment support days available for all secondary teachers to give them extra time to engage with the alternative certification model.