Covid: Schools in Scotland to begin 'phased and gradual' return from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon confirms

  • Video report by ITV Scotland correspondent Peter Smith

Scotland's youngest pupils will return to schools from Monday next week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Nursery and primary years one to three will be the first to return, with some senior phase pupils in secondary schools also being allowed back, but only to complete "essential practical work", Ms Sturgeon said.

With coronavirus levels in the country having fallen due to lockdown, Ms Sturgeon said the phased and gradual return to school will go ahead as planned".

The first minister said further returns to school would not happen before March 15, given the need to properly assess the ramifications of the return in phase one.

She said there would be no other changes to Scotland's coronavirus lockdown, with the stay at home order continuing until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer.

Primary schools in Wales will also begin the process of reopening next Monday, while in England and Northern Ireland schools are set to remain closed to most pupils until at least March 8.

Regular coronavirus testing, two times a week, will be offered to all school staff in Scotland and senior phase pupils to support the return of education centres and help keep them safe.

Parents were urged not to socialise at school gates for fear of spreading coronavirus.

Ms Sturgeon said the reopening of schools should be treated as "a return to education for children only, and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us".

She said: "If we all do that, then I am hopeful that this return to school will be consistent with our continued progress in suppressing the virus.

Nicola Sturgeon on the reopening of schools in Scotland:

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

Ms Sturgeon warned MSPs that "probably for a while yet, 100% normality is unlikely to be possible", despite what she said was a "outstanding" vaccination programme.

The first minister told Holyrood 94% of people aged between 70 and 79 had received their first dose along with 58% of those aged between 65 and 69.

She also said lockdown in Scotland was working as she encouraged people to stick with the restrictions.

"We are now seeing fewer Covid patients in hospital and intensive care - although our health service remains under severe pressure," she said.

"Test positivity has also declined significantly - from around 11% at the start of January, to around 6% now.

"All of this - together with our progress on vaccination - is extremely good news."

But Ms Sturgeon said "even a slight" easing of restrictions could see cases "start rising rapidly again".

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