Coronavirus in Scotland: Phased return to schools will continue to go ahead, says Nicola Sturgeon

Speaking at parliament this afternoon, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government is planning go ahead with a phased approach of schools reopening in January, however, will continue to assess this as coronavirus cases rise and a new Covid strain becomes ‘dominant’ in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon announces that school reopenings across Scotland will continue to go ahead (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).
Nicola Sturgeon announces that school reopenings across Scotland will continue to go ahead (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).

Addressing Holyrood during her Covid update on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said that the return of pupils to schools in Scotland will go ahead “normally” on January 18 while pupils will be introduced to online classes the week before, signalling a phased return to education.

Ms Sturgeon said this decision to re-open schools will continue to be “under review” over the next few days and the Government will set those out “as early as possible to give parents and teachers as much notice as possible.”

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The news comes as daily figures from the Scottish Government reveal that a record high 2,045 new cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours as the First Minister announces that a ‘dominant’ new strain of the virus poses a “very serious threat” to the country.

Ms Sturgeon said that today’s figures “demonstrate the severity of what we face right now.”

Speaking about schools re-opening at parliament today, Ms Sturgeon said: “As we learn about the new variant we also continue to review when pupils can safely return to classrooms.

“The new strain has already made a normal scheduled return impossible but we continue to assess whether it will be possible to reopen schools as planned on January 18. That is, I think, what we all want and to be clear that remains our planning assumption but we will continue to put the safety of pupils, teachers and staff first and of course we will ensure as much notice as possible to parents of any changes we consider to be necessary.”

Responding to questions about when exactly parents will be notified about updates to the re-opening of schools, the First Minister noted that the decision to reopen School’s is “very sensitive” but parents and teachers will be notified “as early as possible” as the situation “remains under assessment.”

The First Minister also noted that the Government is currently working on plans for a “greater use of testing” when the new School term is underway.

However, the Scottish Greens are urging for schools to remain closed as cases continue to surge.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-leader said: “With more new cases in the last day than any other daily rise and the numbers in hospital and ICU also rising, there is a need for caution.“We need to be honest and accept that schools cannot go back until the situation is under control and the role schools play in transmission of the new strain is understood. Teachers have already told us staff do not feel safe, it’s time to listen to them.“And when schools are to open, clearly teachers must benefit from the new increased capacity in vaccinations.“It’s also clear that much more needs to be done to support people to self-isolate, which is a vital part of test and protect. Adequate financial and practical support could drive up compliance and put the brakes on an infection rate which is spiralling out of control.”

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