Nicola Sturgeon will today given an update on when and how pupils may return to school.
The First Minister’s Covid statement will include news about remote learning beyond mid-February, as well as details of plans for coronavirus testing in schools.
Since the Christmas holidays, most children have been learning online at home, with only children of key workers and vulnerable children permitted to attend in person.
When the period of remote learning was extended to the middle of this month on January 19 Ms Sturgeon promised a review on February 2.
There was an indication then that pupils may return to class in phases.
What will we learn?
Today’s Covid statement will be delivered to the Scottish Parliament shortly after 2pm.
You can watch it live on Scottish Parliament TV.
In her daily briefing on Monday Ms Sturgeon said: “Tomorrow’s review will also consider schools and early years provision and will set out our most up-to-date thinking on how and when we might be able to start to resume in-person learning and childcare.
“Obviously, all of us want to do that just as soon as possible.
“I will also tomorrow provide information on some expanded arrangements for testing in those settings as well.”
‘Children should be in school’
One of her Covid-19 advisers, Professor Devi Sridhar, has called for children to return to school.
The Edinburgh University public health expert Tweeted at the weekend: “I’m increasingly convinced by data from countries across the world that we are underestimating the harms of keeping young kids out of school and overplaying their role in transmission.
“Children should be in school.”
I’m increasingly convinced by data from countries across the world that we are underestimating the harms of keeping young kids out of school & overplaying their role in transmission. Children should be in school. https://t.co/nO2VGwGduB
— Prof. Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) January 30, 2021
She pointed to a study in Norway which found minimal transmission among children and between children and adults in primary schools where infection prevention and control measures, such as distancing and enhanced hygiene, were in place.
Fellow Edinburgh University professor Evropi Theodoratou, who contributed to a Royal Society study of school closures last year, told us: “The implications of closed schools are many and important and I am sure the government is aware of these.
“Opening and keeping schools open in a safe way should be a priority.
“An important step towards the safe opening of schools is to lower community transmission, which is why the current lockdown measures were introduced.
What I would like to hear from the government are the details and indicators they have set for the road map towards schools’ opening.”
Professor Evropi Theodoratou
“In terms of measures of protection within schools, the ones that have already been introduced seem to be effective since we didn’t have high numbers of infections in Scottish schools during the first term.
“What I would like to hear from the government are the details and indicators they have set for the road map towards schools opening.”
Teachers’ union caution
The EIS teaching union urged the Scottish Government to err on the side of caution and follow England’s lead, where schools will remain closed until March 8 at least.
General secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Larry Flanagan, said: “Everyone is keen to see schools reopen as soon as possible but this can only happen when it is safe to do, both in terms of suppressing community infection levels and also operating schools safely.
“Whilst community infection levels have dropped, they remain high and a premature opening of schools would simply push the R figure up again, leading potentially to a further period of lockdown.
We would urge the Scottish Government to exhibit an equally cautious approach and not to gamble with school safety.”
Larry Flanagan, EIS teaching union
“The EIS notes that the UK Government, not known for its caution, has indicated mid-March as its target for schools to reopen.
“We would urge the Scottish Government to exhibit an equally cautious approach and not to gamble with school safety.”
He also suggested blended learning – where pupils learn in school part-time and at home – may be needed to allow physical distancing.
‘Last chance to save school year’
Controversial parents group, UsForThem Scotland, claimed today is the “last chance to save the school year”.
Organiser Jo Bisset said: “If the school gates aren’t opened again immediately, parents suspect that’ll be it until the summer, and another year will be down the drain for those who can least afford it.
“More and more voices across the UK are now finally speaking up about the damage inflicted on children and families as a direct result of these prolonged closures.
“Even the First Minister’s own advisers are stating that blanket closures of schools has been a mistake that must be rectified.”