The COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues has published scientific advice for the safe re-opening of schools and the resumption of school transport.
The advice will inform the development of comprehensive guidance on how to ensure the safe re-opening of schools for learners, teachers and families. This includes a package of measures on hygiene and contact management that must be in place to reduce the transmission of the virus and which will form part of the future guidance.
The advice also indicates that no physical distancing is required between children and young people in primary and secondary schools.
On school transport, the advice says dedicated services should be regarded as an extension of the school estate, with physical distancing measures between pupils therefore unnecessary for as long as infection rates in Scotland remain low.
For pupils using public transport, the advice recommends that guidance from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland should continue to apply.
Education Secretary John Swinney MSP said:
“This scientific advice will inform the way schools can re-open safely from 11 August, if infection rates continue to remain low.
“The Education Recovery Group which comprises local authorities, parent representatives and teachers’ organisations and trades unions, has been developing plans for how to open schools safely for everyone.
“We are considering this advice as we develop comprehensive guidance which will give confidence to our school communities that the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff is ensured as we welcome them back.
“Ensuring the highest quality education for our young people, in a safe environment, must be a priority for us all and I know that everyone is committed to make sure that children's education is not adversely affected in the longer term.”
The advice can be found here.
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“Having long pressed for the re-opening of our schools, I am delighted that this will now take place. The fact that social distancing will not be required means our schools should be able to swiftly return to normal and again deliver the education our children need.”
Subject to the continued suppression of the virus, and to surveillance and mitigations being in place, schools will re-open from 11 August.
In Scotland, as at 12 July 2020, 151 (0.8%) of a total 18,365 positive cases were among people aged under 15. This is a rate of less than 20 per 100,000 of the population in that age group.
The package of measures that must be put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus includes:
there should be an increased emphasis on hand hygiene and surface cleaning. Hand washing and/or sanitising should be required for everyone on every entry to the school.
as close as possible to zero tolerance of symptoms should be in place, and strict compliance with the Test and Protect system.
in both primary and secondary settings, the preference should be to avoid large gatherings and crowded spaces and, as much as possible, to keep pupils within the same groups for the duration of the school day.
sharing of equipment/utensils/toys/books should be minimised; and smaller groups and more outdoor activities put in place.
movement between schools - of children, and of temporary/ supply/peripatetic staff should be kept to an absolute minimum.