• Kenneth Gibson MSP

Phased Return to School from 22 February announced


Children in early learning and childcare and in primaries 1-3 across North Ayrshire and Scotland are scheduled to make a full return to nurseries and schools from 22 February.

In addition, very limited numbers of pupils in S4-6 will also be able to complete in-school practical work that is essential for completing national qualifications on a part-time basis from the same date.

Some children and young people with significant additional support needs will also be prioritised for a return to in-person provision, for those most urgently in need of support.

All other pupils, with the exception of vulnerable children and those of key workers, will continue with remote learning.

To complement the return to in-school teaching, there will be a significant expansion of testing. People who work in schools, early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, and senior phase pupils, will be offered at-home testing twice a week.

Two metre physical distancing for adults and pupils will be required in secondary schools in the period immediately after a return.

Where required, updated guidance (and associated mitigations) will be published for all relevant settings that allows for the current circumstances and latest scientific advice. All these measures will be kept under regular review.

These decisions will be confirmed on Tuesday 16 February - providing sufficient progress in tackling the virus has been made.

Education Secretary John Swinney MSP said:

“I appreciate only too well the burden being placed on many families as they navigate this COVID pandemic. I am also acutely aware of the need to maintain teaching and learning wherever possible. In doing so, the health and wellbeing of our children, young people and staff is paramount.

“My priority has been to ensure a safe return for children and young people to school and nursery as quickly as possible. That is why the steps that have been announced today are guided by the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and public health experts. Children and young people will begin a gradual, phased return to classrooms supported by a testing regime and enhanced guidance. A sense of caution underpins the plans unveiled today, but this is essential as we work to return to full time teaching in schools.”

Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:

“I am delighted that the situation is now deemed safe enough for pupils and school staff to return to offline delivery of early learning and childcare in particular. It will be good for these young children to get a sense of normality back and to help them communicate and socialise during such a crucial stage in their development.

“The return for S4-6 pupils to an extent is also most welcome, as it is important that we minimise any potential disadvantages they suffer as they get ready to get their qualifications.

“I raised concerns over the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their lives earlier this week and the First Minister was able to provide reassurances that the Scottish Government will explore every possible option to minimise any disadvantage as a consequence of the pandemic.”

The schedule, subject to confirmation on 16 February, is:

February 22:


  • Full time return for pre-school children in early learning and childcare settings and children in P1-3.

  • Part time return for senior phase pupils - S4, S5 and S6 - on a limited basis, for essential in-school practical work only. It is intended that there will be no more than 5 - 8% of a secondary school roll physically present at any one time for these purposes.

  • Small increase for additional support needs where there is a demonstrable and immediate need.

All other primary and secondary pupils will continue to use remote learning until at least the beginning of March except in the case of vulnerable children and those of key workers. We will review this position every two weeks.

School age childcare services will also remain open only to vulnerable children and those of key workers pending further scientific advice.

All children who are eligible for free school meals will continue to receive them during this period.

ENDS