Scotland

Coronavirus: Scottish schools to fully reopen from 11 August

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Media captionCoronavirus: Schools in Scotland to fully reopen from 11 August

Scotland's schools have been given the go-ahead to reopen from 11 August by the country's first minister.

Guidance issued to councils said children should "return to school as quickly and as safely as possible".

Nicola Sturgeon said she expected all pupils to be back in class full time from 18 August "at the very latest".

The first minister also announced an end to shielding, but said "minimal" other changes would be made.

She said Scotland could remain in "phase three" of the government's route map out of lockdown for some time to come.

Ms Sturgeon said "substantial, hard earned" progress had been made in suppressing coronavirus, which would allow schools to reopen in August.

Ms Sturgeon said there was a "moral and educational imperative that we get children back to school as soon as is safely possible".

Some councils can opt for a "phased return over the first few days" of the new term, which begins on 11 August, but the first minister said "we expect all pupils to be at school full time from 18 August at the very latest".

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Image caption Pupils will not have to maintain physical distancing from each other when schools reopen in Scotland

Guidance issued to councils says physical distancing will not be enforced between pupils, although secondary schools will be expected to adjust the layout of classrooms and the flow in corridors "where possible" to encourage older children to keep apart.

Teachers will be expected to maintain a 2m (6ft 6in) distance where possible, but the wearing of face coverings will not be enforced, with this "left to the judgement of individuals".

A range of "extra precautions" will also be put in place to help schools operate safely, including extra cleaning and hand hygiene requirements and "quick access to testing" for anyone who develops symptoms.

The EIS teaching union said "many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom", calling for more to be done to "reassure school communities around safety".

General Secretary Larry Flanagan said class sizes should be cut "as the norm" to enable more distancing in classrooms, with unemployed teachers being brought in to help.

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Image caption People in the "shielding" group will be able to follow the same rules as the general population from August

The Scottish government has announced a total of £75m in funding for councils to recruit around 1,400 more teachers, alongside extra cash for cleaning, facilities management and school transport.

The Scottish Greens meanwhile called for "routine, regular testing" for teachers and staff, saying ministers should learn from the spread of the virus in care homes.

Ms Sturgeon said the government took this very seriously, saying the test and protect system would work quickly to test anyone with symptoms and trace their contacts.

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that shielding advice for people who are most at risk from Covid-19 would be paused from 1 August, meaning they can now follow the same rules as the general population.

She said this would be a "huge relief to many", but that she also suspected it would make many feel "anxious", saying: "Please be assured that we are pausing shielding now because we believe it is safe to do so. If circumstances change, our advice will also change - we will continue to put your safety first."

The first minister said few other lockdown measures would be eased immediately, warning that "the virus is still circulating and it remains highly infectious and very dangerous".

She set out indicative dates for a range of other changes in future, which could see bingo halls, pool halls and funfairs allowed to reopen from 24 August.

Swimming pools and indoor gyms may be allowed to resume business from 14 September, and a limited reopening of stadiums for outdoor events may be permitted from that date.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I know how difficult this situation is for those sectors and activities who are facing a long wait before they can resume.

"We do not take these decisions lightly - but at present, we are not confident that we can restart all of these activities safely within a shorter timescale. Doing so could risk a resurgence of the virus and undermine our ability to get children back to school."

The first minister also said work was at "quite an advanced stage" to introduce a coronavirus app in Scotland in the autumn, using software currently in use in the Republic of Ireland to alert users if they come into proximity with someone with the virus. She said more details would be announced in the coming days, adding that the app would be a "useful enhancement" of traditional contact tracing techniques.

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