Pupils to return to classrooms in Scotland but lockdown will continue into March

PA Scotland reporters

Some pupils in Scotland are to return to schools from next Monday, but other lockdown restrictions are to remain until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament that lockdown “has been working” with a slowing down of the virus.

Pupils in primary one to primary three – children between the ages of four and eight – will therefore be able to return to school, she said.

Plans for a “strategic framework” to plot a way out of coronavirus restrictions will be published next week, Ms Sturgeon added, but it will prioritise education.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in Scotland
(PA Graphics)

And she said the situation is still very fragile, adding “even a slight easing of restrictions could cause cases to start rising rapidly again”.

“We are choosing to use the very limited headroom we have right now to get at least some children back to school – because children’s education and wellbeing is such a priority,” she said.

“But being able to get children back to education may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer.

“That is a trade-off we need to be willing to make.”

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon updated MSPS on lockdown restrictions (Jane Barlow/PA)

She said there would be no “immediate changes to the current lockdown restrictions” and the “core stay at home requirement will remain in place until at least the beginning of March – and possibly for a further period beyond that”.

“I will, however, confirm that the phased and gradual return to school that I said we were hopeful about when I updated Parliament two weeks ago will go ahead as planned,” she said.

Pupils in primary one to primary three will return to school and all children under school age in early learning and childcare will return.

Schools will also open to senior secondary school pupils who are required to complete practical work towards achieving a qualification.

The senior pupils will be required to socially distance while in school and on school transport.

No other pupils will return before March 15, the First Minister added.

The First Minister also said the Scottish Government is currently preparing a revised strategic framework to be published next week for gradually emerging from lockdown.

It will advise against booking Easter holidays either overseas or within Scotland, she said.

But summer staycations may be possible.

The lockdown exit plan will prioritise education, followed by greater family contact and the phased re-opening of the economy, with non-essential retail opening first, Ms Sturgeon said.

“And it will be clear on the trade-offs – not least continued travel restrictions – that will be necessary to make more normality within our own borders possible,” she said.

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