Leitch: S1-S3 pupils may not return to school ‘for a little while’

National clinical director says younger secondary school pupils could return sooner if virus prevalence declines.

Secondary school pupils in S1-S3 may not return to the classroom “for a little while”, national clinical director Jason Leitch said on Thursday.

Speaking to Scotland Tonight, Leitch said he was “really sorry” for households that have younger pupils at secondary school, adding that he was hopeful they could return sooner if the prevalence of Covid-19 continues to fall.

Leitch said: “So what we’ve said is that you know that P1 to P3 are back, early learning and childcare is back; three-week chunks, about an incubation period-and-a-half, and then we will give advice and the decision-makers will choose about what comes next.

“Now it may be that we can get everybody back in three weeks or it may be that we get the rest of primary back, the rest of S4,5,6 back, who are the certificated kids, and then S1-3, unfortunately, and I am really sorry for the houses that are housing S1-S3s, they may not get back for a little while.

“But we are hopeful if the prevalence falls, get as many back as we can, but it will be in three-week chunks, so S1-S3 are probably the slower group but we might get them back a bit quicker.”

The youngest children in Scotland returned to the classroom on Monday as schools began to reopen.

Children between the ages of four and eight in primaries one to three are back in class, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications.

All children under school age in early learning and childcare also returned.

Senior secondary pupils are required to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.

The Scottish Government on Tuesday published its framework on the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The second phase of schools reopening will begin from Monday, March 15.

Discussion is ongoing but that phase is expected to include the remaining primary school years (P4-P7) and more secondary school pupils on a part-time ‘blended learning’ basis.

The third and final phase of schools reopening, which will see all pupils back in the classroom if they haven’t already returned, will commence on the week beginning April 5, although the Easter holidays are due to start around this date in local authorities across the country.

Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ law could also be lifted on April 5, as part of the new ‘roadmap’ out of coronavirus restrictions.

Mainland Scotland and some islands have effectively been under a full lockdown since January 5.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament earlier this week “that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers” from the last week of April.

Leitch said: “I would be hopeful we would be able to travel inside Scotland and potentially across the border (at that stage). But that would depend, of course, on English regulations and Scottish regulations.”

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