Nicola Sturgeon urged caution at Holyrood today as she announced all secondary pupils will return to school on a part or full-time basis from March 15.
It had previously been announced that those in S1 to S3 would not return until April.
But speaking 12 months on from Scotland’s first recorded coronavirus case, the first minister said those students will now get some in-school time before the Easter holidays.
There is a “clear expectation” that all high school pupils will be back on a full-time basis after the Easter holidays.
It is understood those undertaking national exams in S4-S6 will be given priority for face-to-face learning.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Before Easter, as this will be a blended learning model, we will also continue to ensure that remote learning is of the highest standard possible.
“Reports show the delivery of remote learning has improved greatly between the first and second lockdowns.
“We will work with Education Scotland to ensure enhanced online resources continue to be available over the coming month.
“We recognise that the safety of staff and children must continue to be a key priority.”
Further guidance will be published by Education Scotland and made available for local authorities next week.
Preventing the spread in schools
A number of measures have been introduced to limited the spread of the virus in schools, these include:
- Physical distancing
- Wearing of face coverings
- Ventilation monitoring
- Lateral flow testing
All local authorities will, at least until Easter, continue to observe the current requirement for physical distancing in secondary schools with some of the £375 million education recovery funding being used to monitor and improve ventilation.
Wearing face coverings will also be mandatory, at all times, in secondary schools.
Twice-weekly lateral flow testing for all school staff in primary, secondary and special schools, and all secondary school pupils in years 4, 5 and 6 will continue.
Care and caution
The first minister touched on the potential easing of restrictions emphasising the importance of forethought.
Ms Sturgeon said: “There is perhaps more reason to be optimistic now, than perhaps at any time since early autumn last year.
“Although we remain cautious, I hope people will take heart from the data, it shows real significant and sustained progress in getting the virus under control.”
Discussing the speed of which restrictions can be relaxed, she said: “I’ve always said if we can go further and faster then we will not hesitate to do so.
“But I hope, and believe, that the end of it is now firmly in sight.”
Latest coronavirus numbers
Scotland has recorded 33 deaths from coronavirus and 542 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Scottish Government figures show.
It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,164.
The latest statistics show 203,012 people have tested positive in Scotland, up from 202,470 the previous day. The daily test positivity rate is 4.4%, down from 4.5%.
There are 784 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 40 in 24 hours, and 71 patients are in intensive care, no change.
A total of 1,634,361 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Tuesday morning and 84,445 have received their second dose.