Nicola Sturgeon Has Announced The "Phased" Return Of Scottish Schools From Monday
Nicola Sturgeon announced classrooms would be open for the youngest pupils from Monday
Scotland's youngest pupils will return to full-time classroom learning from Monday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The First Minister has confirmed children in Primaries 1-3, which spans from nursery to age 8, will return to school full time from Monday as part of a phased reopening of Scottish schools.
Sturgeon said secondary school pupils who require access to the classroom to undertake practical work will also be allowed on a partial basis.
The SNP leader said the move marked a "phased and gradual" return to schools but that it did not mean other lockdown easing restrictions were likely to follow.
Updating MSPs on the plan, the Scottish First Minister said the plans "must be driven much more by data than by dates".
"If we open up too quickly to meet arbitrary dates we do risk setting our progress back," she added.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed he would be setting out a more detailed timetable for easing lockdown restrictions from 22 February.
Both Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson have insisted that reopening schools would be the first step in lifting lockdown, but that teachers would be given at least two weeks notice before any return to classroom teaching.
The Scottish First Minister had been expected to confirm the plans to MSPs after she confirmed earlier this month that falling infection rates had made it possible to consider restarting in-person education
Sturgeon said that teachers, school workers and older pupils would also be able to request two Covid-19 tests each week as part of wider measures to ensure reopening schools did not lead to a rise in infections.
Schools in Scotland have been shut since 4 January for most pupils, with only the children of key workers able to attend.
Speaking in Holyrood, she added: "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.
"In Terms of the order in which we do exit lockdown, the Government has always made clear that education should be the top priority.
"I announced two weeks ago that pre-school children, pupils in primaries one, two and three, and a limited number of senior phase students who need access to school for essential practical work, would return from 22 February."
She added: "I also said that, from the same date, we hope to enable a limited increase in the provision for vulnerable childrend, specifically those with the most additional support needs, where schools believe that is essential."
But Sturgeon said that further relaxation of school restrictions was not likely to come before 15 March, saying the Scottish government would need to "monitor the impact of this change very carefully before taking any further decisions".