EDUCATION: Phase 2 of schools return after lockdown

By Lucy Ashton

All remaining primary school children are set to return to school full-time from 15 March, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis from that date.

Regulated childcare, including breakfast and after-school clubs, for primary pupils will also re-start on 15 March as part of the Phase 2 return.

From 15 March, all secondary pupils will receive both high quality remote learning and some in-school teaching. Councils will decide how to safely balance in-school learning based on local circumstances and needs.

Senior phase students (S4-S6) who are taking national qualifications will have priority for face-to-face lessons in school.

Updated schools safety guidance to support the phased return will be published next week and Education Scotland will develop practical guidance for schools, which will be also published shortly.

Local authorities will be encouraged to support young people’s wellbeing in other ways – for example, by providing more opportunities for outdoor learning.

Colleges, who can have up to 5% of learners on campus at any one time, will also be able to prioritise senior phase pupils.

The plans are conditional on continued progress on suppressing coronavirus (COVID-19).

All pupils are expected to return to full-time schooling after Easter, subject to continued suppression of the virus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, left,  said:  “I can confirm that the next phase of reopening education will take place on 15 March. From that date – unless new evidence or new circumstances force us to reconsider – all children in primary 4 to 7 will go back to school on a full-time basis and all primary school children will be able to return to regulated childcare.

“All secondary school pupils will return to spend some time in school from 15 March  – with a clear expectation that all secondary school pupils will be back in school on a full-time basis after the Easter holidays.

“The phased approach to school return is firmly based on the expert advice that we have received. It is the best and also the most sustainable and enduring way to get as many children back to school as possible, as safely as possible.”

All secondary pupils will continue to be required to observe two metre physical distancing while in school in the period immediately after the Phase 2 return. This is in addition to existing measures, including the use of face coverings. School transport will operate with the same physical distancing rules as public transport.

Phase 1 of the schools return started on 22 February when pupils in P1-3, along with a limited number of senior phase pupils who require to complete practical work in order to achieve national qualifications, went back to classes.

On 16 February, Ministers announced a package of support and safety steps to support the phased return, including:

  • a further £40 million to help councils implement safety mitigations aligned with clinical advice
  • £60 million 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. The programme will be expanded to stand alone childcare settings as soon as possible

Speaking after he pressed the First Minister over plans for the reopening of schools in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:  “Perhaps it was unwise for the First Minister to sneer at other governments making up dates when she has already changed the dates that she set out last week.  The three-week review has suddenly changed to a weekly review.

“The First Minister has made this last-minute change to school opening without issuing any fresh guidance and has dumped the problem on teachers to fix. In her opinion, teachers are just expected to accommodate the situation, almost as if the already existing issues and difficulties the teachers have repeatedly experienced during this pandemic do not exist.

“If two thirds of the class are at home teachers will need to juggle the competing demands and additional workload that will come with physical and online teaching. There are no more hours in the day, it is impossible to expect our teachers to perform miracles on a daily basis. Teachers are already exhausted.  This is not the way to reward them.”

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