A north-east youngster battling cancer was one of the thousands of north-east pupils who returned to classrooms yesterday.
Imogen Miller, from Fraserburgh, went back to the town’s St Andrews primary yesterday despite her continuing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
The six-year-old’s sister Lacey successfully fought off the disease after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 2011. It is now in remission.
Lacey also returned to the classroom after shielding alongside her younger sibling since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pair’s mum Michelle Bruce, 31, said they are both “excited” about the return to their lessons with Lacey beginning primary six and Imogen joining a mixed primary one and two class.
Michelle said: “They are both excited about seeing their classmates. There are a lot of friends they haven’t seen for a while because they have both been shielding.
“Imogen never really got to school before because of her treatment. She is still being treated and she takes oral chemo everyday.
“She also gets chemo into her spine and brain every three months.
“Lacey has been in remission for eight years but because Imogen is ill it was better for her to be shielding as well.”
Michelle believes the increased hygiene regime at the school will help keep Imogen safer because she can sometimes pick up colds or the flu.
She said: “Imogen has ended up in hospital because she has picked something up but I think it will be a lot safer now.
“This is because of the hand washing and other measures taken at school.
“We’ve been doing these kinds of things with her for the last two years anyway so she is used to washing her hands.
“Imogen is still making friends at school and it will be good for her. Lacey is quite independent and will be really for her to see her chums after shielding for so long.”
Speaking after the end of the school day, Michelle said the siblings enjoyed being back in the classroom and will return on Monday.
She said: “Imogen got on great she said she had the best day at school and she made new friends. She can’t wait to go back next week.
“Lacey enjoyed seeing all her friends . She met two at the school gates and walked in with them.
“They are both not back now until Monday but both so eager to get back.”
I know that everyone will make every effort to ensure that the health and well being of pupils is our top priority.”
Council officials in both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have welcomed the reopening of schools.
Councillor John Wheeler, education operational delivery convener for the city, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the tremendous work teachers and other school staff have undertaken in the last few months has paid off with the much-anticipated full reopening of our schools.
“I’d like to pay tribute to our entire Education Services team for their innovation, dedication and resolve over the last few difficult months and also say thanks to our pupils, families and carers for the great resilience and patience they have shown during this challenging period.
“We recognise that we are not of the woods yet as far as the pandemic is concerned and I know that everyone will make every effort to ensure that the health and well being of pupils is our top priority. We will continue to follow national guidance and be prepared for any changes that may take place.”
Laurence Findlay, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of education and children’s services, said: “Many schools in Aberdeenshire opened as planned on Wednesday.
“Clearly, there were closures to some schools and changes to transport arrangements resulting from the morning’s terrible weather. We are anticipating that the majority of schools that were closed will reopen as usual.
“I would like to wish all pupils and staff the very best for the new school year. I must also say a big thank you to all teachers and staff who worked tirelessly over the summer often during changing and challenging circumstances.”
Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed that teachers and nursery staff will now get on-demand testing for Covid-19.
He said: “This step has been taken to provide additional reassurance to teachers and other staff as children and young people return to the classroom and to nursery.
“It is vital these measures provide credible reassurance to all who have expressed anxiety about the reopening of schools.”
In addition, a programme of enhanced surveillance that will include a full application of Test and Protect, outbreak management and rapid testing for all those with symptoms in school will be in place.
There will be close “ongoing monitoring” of the virus in schools and among school-age children and staff from the start of term.
Serology testing will also be carried out from next month among staff, looking for antibodies to Covid-19.
Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith, has issued the latest science in respect of Covid-19 and schools.
Mr Swinney said this shows there have been no Covid-19-related deaths for people aged under the age of 15 and 1% of Covid-19 deaths have been in those aged under 45.
On August 3 fewer than 1% of the cases of Covid-19 involved children under 15 and around 2% involved children and young people aged under 20.
There have also been no cases linked to the community hubs open throughout the pandemic and children affected by Covid-19 are less likely to spread the virus to each other or to adults, according to the latest evidence.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson described the move to offer on-demand testing to teachers and school staff as a “welcome move”.
“The job they do is essential and incredibly valuable – educating and caring for children – and I support any move to help them feel safer in doing so following the coronavirus outbreak,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ross Greer, Scottish Greens education spokesman, called for school testing to be “regularly offered” to school staff, particularly in areas like Aberdeen experiencing an outbreak in cases.
Mr Greer said: “The countries which have successfully eliminated Covid-19 credit much of this to their intense use of regular testing, and it underpins the Scottish Government’s rules for the return of premier league football.
“School staff surely deserve the same reassurance as footballers.”