North-east schools have been outlining how they plan to move forward in a bid to get children back into the classroom post-coronavirus.
Bosses at Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils have written to parents explaining their planned next steps after the Scottish Government unveiled its detailed route map out of lockdown.
Schools across the region are set to reopen for lessons on August 11, in line with the rest of the country.
In the city, staff are set to return to school buildings next month – as long as it is deemed safe to do so by Scottish Government chiefs.
Once pupils return, a “blended” model of learning will be implemented, which will involve pupils spending part of their time at school and the remainder learning at home.
Aberdeenshire schools will have reduced class sizes, while children will be kept in small groups without mixing.
Break and lunch times will be staggered, and “clear protocols” will be introduced for parents and carers dropping off and picking up children.
Schools will also be cleaned more frequently, while the use of shared items will be reduced. Outdoor areas will be utilised more frequently.
Laurence Findlay, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of education and children’s services, said in a letter to parents: “It is clear that we will all have to continue to be flexible about learning arrangements for the foreseeable future.
“While the number of in-school hours possible from August may not be what you are hoping for, I am sure you will appreciate safety must come first and employers are expected to support parents as far as possible.”
He added: “In very challenging circumstances, schools have adapted very well to providing home and online learning, and young people and parents have responded to this really well.
“I am in no doubt that we will overcome the challenges ahead and I would like to thank staff across Aberdeenshire for their efforts.
“I would also like to thank all parents/carers for your continued support and I hope you and your families are all keeping well at this difficult time.”
The news came as First Minister revealed grandparents who perform childcare duties would not be allowed to do so – even after childminding services are allowed to restart.
Nicola Sturgeon has said “one of the most distressing” aspects of lockdown is the need to keep families apart, as it was revealed some grandparents may be unable see their grandchildren for “many months”.
The Scottish Government’s “route map” out of lockdown – published on Thursday – sets out how childcare provision will be fully reopened as the country enters its third phase of easing restrictions, likely some time in August.
But the document makes no reference to families who rely on grandparents for childcare and appears to suggest a requirement for family members in other households to maintain a two-metre distance may not be lifted until phase four.
It means the fourth phase, which the plan describes as “many months” away, could be the first time grandparents of very young children are able to visit them in person.
The timeframe may also apply to when older family members are able to share an embrace for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began.
The first minister was asked at her daily briefing in Edinburgh what she would say to the grandparents of young children for whom physical distancing is unlikely to possible for the duration of the lockdown measures.
“There are so many difficult aspects of this, too many to list, but one of the most distressing aspects – and I’ve seen the impact of that in my own parents – is not being able to be with grandchildren.”
Ms Sturgeon said the requirement had taken a toll in her own family and she admitted it is a situation that “really upsets” her.
She said: “There are so many difficult aspects of this, too many to list, but one of the most distressing aspects – and I’ve seen the impact of that in my own parents – is not being able to be with grandchildren.
“I don’t want that to continue for any longer than possible and we will try to run through these phases as quickly as we can, as quickly as the evidence allows.
“But I come back to the central point here – older people are most at risk from this virus; 90% of people who have died in Scotland of this virus have been over-65. That, I’m afraid, is just the brutal fact at the heart of this.”
The first minister stressed that asking adults and children not to be together in some cases, no matter how difficult, “is about protecting the grandparent… and to make sure you’re around longer to see your grandchildren grow up.”
“I know this is difficult,” she said. “You will be able, once we lift some of these restrictions and go into the next phase, to sit in the garden with your grandkids again but at a two-metres distance for this next phase.
“I know how practically difficult that will be – particularly with young children – but it is for your protection and we won’t ask you to continue to restrict your normal life for any longer than we feel is necessary. That’s the commitment I give.”