Scottish schools start reopening as pupils welcomed back

11 August 2020, 07:11

Pupils will have staggered start and finish times, shorter classes and PE will only happen outdoors
Pupils will have staggered start and finish times, shorter classes and PE will only happen outdoors. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Scottish schools will be the first in the UK to begin reopening today as lockdown is eased and pupils return.

All students are expected to return full-time by next Tuesday which will be the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.

However pupils won't be expected to observe social distancing, but adults and older children will have to stay apart.

Education authorities north of the border are taking different approaches with the time frame for reopening for the first time since March 20.

Pupils in the Borders are returning a week before they would usually start the school year after the summer holidays.

But the school day will look quite different, with staggered start and finish times, staggered lunch hours and shorter classes, while assemblies will be cancelled and PE will only happen outdoors.

Social distancing will be in place for adults and encouraged for older pupils, while young children will not be expected to.

Face masks will only have to be worn by staff who cannot effectively social distance, however, anyone who wishes to should be allowed.

New Rickstones Academy school's plans for returning students

Elsewhere, pupils will return from Wednesday, with many councils operating a phased return ahead of the August 18 deadline for all pupils to be back full-time.

Fears have been raised about how well-prepared teachers are to deal with mitigating the spread of the virus, as well as anxiety among staff who are returning.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said such feelings are "entirely understandable" and stressed reopening schools is a priority for the Scottish Government.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing on Monday, she said: "I know that there will be nerves and anxiety for children, parents and teachers this week - and I think that is entirely understandable.

"Fundamentally, all of us know that the reopening of schools is essential for children's education, personal development and indeed I think for their general wellbeing and happiness.

"So what we are doing is trying to ensure that the reopening is safe and effective."

Public need to be confident before sending children back to school

A total of 45 per cent of those questioned in an NASUWT teaching union survey said they do not think it will be safe for pupils to return, with 42 per cent uncertain.

More than two-thirds (67 per cent) do not feel prepared to go back to their school or college and the vast majority - 87 per cent - feel anxious about returning when it is reopened to all pupils.

In response to the survey, a Scottish Government spokesman pointed to guidance on preparing for the start of the new term, which sets out the approach that must be taken, including a number of health mitigations.