Coronavirus: Is it safe for Scotland’s schools to reopen?

Scottish pupils are returning to the classroom this week for the first time since schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools in the Borders and on Shetland open today, with most others going back from Wednesday – but how safe will pupils and teachers be?

Is it safe for schools to reopen?

The Scottish government insists that it is.

Scotland has had one of the highest coronavirus death rates in Europe, but infection rates are now generally very low across the country.

Only about 170 children under the age of 15 have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland since the pandemic began – and none have died.

The government points to studies from other parts of the world which suggest that children could be much less likely to be infected than adults, generally develop milder symptoms and may be less likely to spread the virus to others.

Experts from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre concluded that "children do not appear to be super-spreaders" and there was no need for schools anywhere to remain closed.

However, the scientific evidence is by no means conclusive – and the Scottish government admits it is less clear for older, secondary school pupils than it is for younger children.

But it says keeping schools closed is bad for children's health and wellbeing, and that "the balance of risk is now strongly in favour of children and young people returning to school full-time".

What safety measures are in place?

Scotland's schools are going to look and feel very different to how they did before the pandemic.

The government says there is no need for primary school children to socially distance – but secondary schools should encourage pupils to distance "where possible".

This means older pupils will be urged not to crowd together, especially indoors, or touch each other.

Adults will need to keep at least 2m apart from each other and from pupils if possible – although it is accepted that this is not realistic for teachers dealing with nursery age children.

No-one will need to wear face coverings, apart from staff who have close personal contact with a pupil for an extended period of time. But anyone who wants to wear a face covering should be allowed to do so.

All schools will have to provide adequate hand washing and sanitizing facilities – and ensure they are properly used – and there will be enhanced ventilation and cleaning.

Specific rules vary from school to school, but class sizes could be changed and many are staggering drop-off and pick-up times.

They should try and keep pupils in consistent groups, like a class or year group. Some are making pupils eat lunch in their classroom rather than the canteen, and staggering break times.

Schools are urged to use outdoor spaces as much as possible, but music and singing "should be avoided during the initial return to school".

How safe do teachers feel?

Scotland's biggest teaching union, the EIS, says many of its members still have serious concerns.

It carried out a survey of about 25,000 teachers last week. While the majority (64%) supported the decision to re-open schools, only a fifth were confident schools were cuRead More – Source

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