• Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Nicola Sturgeon confirms return to school with increased testing

ByFreya Buxton

Feb 17, 2021

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a statement from the Scottish parliament confirming that from Monday 22 February, children from years one to three would be able to return to school. 

Alongside the youngest children, secondary school pupils “who need access to school for essential practical work” will be permitted to return, with “a limited increase in the provision for vulnerable children.”

Measures to enable the safe return of pupils were also outlined. 

These included “senior phase pupils, teachers and school staff” to have at-home lateral flow tests made available twice a week, comprehensive testing guidance and two metre physical distancing for senior secondary pupils “while in school, and on school transport, in the period immediately after the return“.  

A package of financial support is also being introduced, which will see local authorities and schools receiving “an additional £40 million, as part of a wider £100 million package to accelerate school recovery.”

However, while the priority groups of children are to be allowed back, the First Minister also stated that it would be unlikely that further returns to school would happen before March 15.

Moreover, in light of the cancellation of public exams in Scotland, the First Minister also stated that the National Qualifications 2021 Group would be providing details on how qualifications are to be awarded this year. 

While the briefing’s main aim was to confirm the prioritisation of education in the return to normality, Sturgeon also took the opportunity to suggest optimism about Scotland’s vaccine programme. 

While she acknowledged there had been some issues with the programme, she stated that Scotland had reached its mid-February target of offering “the first dose of the vaccine to everyone over 70 and everyone with an extreme clinical vulnerability”.  

The success of the Scottish vaccine programme now sees 28 percent  of the adult population vaccinated, following a strong uptake in vaccination offers. 

However, Sturgeon was also careful to emphasise caution, despite the increase of vaccinations. 

She stressed that while Scotland has seen the beginnings of a decline of cases, hospitalisation and intensive care patients, rates could easily rise again, particularly with the infectious nature of the new variant. 

Overall, the First Minister presented some cautious optimism, but stressed a clear message that she could not offer certainty of an exact time frame for easing restrictions, due to the need for this to be driven by “data, rather than by dates.”

Image: Edinburgh Live