Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed pupils from all of Scotland's schools are set to return to classrooms in August.

The First Minister revealed this will be a "blended" approach, far from normality for our nation's youngsters, as part of a four-phase plan to ease the lockdown. 

But even this is reliant on two key factors - if the scientific and medical advice confirms it can be done so in a way that will not distrupt efforts to controlthe virus; and if there is sufficient PPE and other hygiene measures in place. 

Following her announcement in parliament, the Scottish Goevrnment published their 'strategic framework' for the reopening of schools. 

Here, we'll detail out what parents need to know ahead of their child's return to the classroom.

When will schools reopen?

Schools in Scotland are set to reopen on August 11.

This is earlier than planned for some schools - but the universal approach is being advised by the Scottish Government.

Teachers are set to return to the classroom by June to plan and prepare for the new 'blended' model of learning.

Some pupils set to start P1 or S1 may also receive some in-school experience in late June, to help ensure they are supported to make the next steps in their education.

Critical childcare will continue until August to ensure the ongoing provision for key worker and vulnerable children.

How will the 'blended' model work?

Under this approach, children will have a mixture of in-school and in-home learning.

According to the framework, this is reliant on consistent and easy-to-use in-home materials which are "intended to support and complement, but not replicate" in-school learning.

To help disadvantaged pupils, a further £30m was announced to provide laptops and other technology for the home learning.

However the document notes that: "No matter how well planned in-home learning is, it is not the same as having effective learning and teaching within the school environment, led by teachers."

The 'blended' model will be kept under constant review.

Cumnock Chronicle:

How will pupils social distance?

For the first phase of reopening, schools are being asked to assess the maximum numbers they can accommodate, with guidance including:

  • Pupils being taught in smaller groups
  • These groups will not be mixed, where practicable
  • Seating positions will be re-organised to allow for 2m gaps between pupils. 
  • Outdoor space will be used more. 
  • There will be staggered arrival and departure times, so parents will avoid congregating in playground areas.
  • Breaks will be staggered by class to avoid contact from different classes.
  • Teachers, rather than pupils, will move around classrooms where possible.
  • There will be enhanced hygiene practices across all schools, including additional cleaning.

Expanding the 'learning estate'

Local authorities are being advised to look for ways they can maximise the capacity for pupils to benefit from in-school learning as much as possible. 

One such way they are doing this is through expanding the 'learning estate'.

This would mean looking at places like outdoor space in schools, as well as libraries, community halls, leisure centres, conference centres and even taking short-term leases of vacant business accommodation to use as classrooms.

Who will be prioritised for in-school learning?

As set out above, there is likely going to be a finite number of daily places for in-school learning. 

As a result, to support NHS capacity and other essential work, a priority will be given to the children of keyworkers - but this is only in circumstances where absolutely necessary with no other option for childcare within that household.

The remaining allocation is to be distributed across all year groups to ensure every pupils benefits from in-school learning where possible, according to the framework.

Local authorities are being advices to use their knowledge of local circumstances to prioritise any groups where need is greatest. 

Cumnock Chronicle:

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the First Minister said: “These arrangements will not represent a complete return to normality by August.

“But we judge them to be the most sensible approach we can plan for at this stage.”

Later in the session, the First Minister said the Scottish Government wants to ensure pupils will be back at school “in a way that allows them to be children”.

She added: “None of us relish the prospect of seeing kids, particularly young kids, socially distancing or be as aware of these risks as we will undoubtedly have to require them to be.

“Trying to get, for children in particular, as much normality as possible in the school environment is really important.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the challenges of that but it is absolutely central to all of this careful planning that is underway.”