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Highland pupils could return to school in three weeks as part of a phased return the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed although lockdown restrictions will continue into next month

By Ian Duncan

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Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon.

Youngsters in the Highland and the rest of Scotland could start returning to school later this month the First Minister said today.

Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement of a planned phased return from Monday, February 22, subject to official confirmation, at Holyrood this afternoon.

She said Scotland was the first UK Government to set out a start date and details of a return to school was information that most people watching would want to know about.

She said: "It is a statement of the obvious that all of us want to see children and young people back in full time face-to-face education just as soon as possible.

"The closure of school premises to most pupils right now is unfortunately necessary in the interests of protecting the country overall from the harm from the virus but evidence of the wider health, developmental and social harm has been experienced by children and young people concern all of us."

Ms Sturgeon said school closures also placed added pressure on parents and added that the chance of getting children back to school earlier might mean that adults had to live with the lockdown for longer.

She said: "If we all do agree to abide with the lockdown restrictions for a bit longer and our progress in suppressing the virus continues we can begin a phased, albeit gradual, return to school from February 22 following the February mid-term break."

The decision would be subject to final confirmation in two weeks time but it is intended that from that date there would be a full time return in early learning and childcare, a full time return for children in primaries one to three, as well as a part time return on a limited basis for senior pupils to allow them to complete in-school practical work necessary for the completion of national qualifications.

She also hoped to outline the next phase of the return in two weeks time and there would also be a "significant expansion in testing" in education settings to support the return to schools in the weeks ahead.

"It is our intention that those who work in schools, and those who work in early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, will be offered at home testing twice a week. All senior phase secondary students will be offered this as well," she said.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed there had been 69 Covid deaths in the previous 24 hours, within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, bringing the total number for Scotland to 6181.

She said there had been 758 positive cases yesterday, 7.4 per cent of all tests carried out, bringing the total to 181,291.

Currently there are 1939 people in hospital and 143 people in intensive care.

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