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- 5th First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party
Nicola Sturgeon said that children and young people have suffered “disproportionately” over the last two years and that it is important they are able to continue their education as normal in the new year.
She said that adults may have to make sacrifices to achieve this, but that people should be prepared to accept that if it helps ensure normality in schools.
Teaching union Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) had called for the reopening of Scottish schools after the Christmas holidays to be delayed because of the Omicron variant, while the head of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union said the Scottish Government should be prepared to return schools to remote learning if necessary.
However giving an update on the Covid situation to MSPs on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “It remains our priority to reopen schools as normal after the holidays.”
She added: “I want schools to reopen on schedule and I want children to be back in school as normal.
“I think everybody has suffered through these last two years and children and young people have suffered disproportionately particularly given the very important stage of their of their lives and their education so my views on that are very clear.
“I think when teachers hear me say that they think perhaps I am dismissing concerns about their safety, I am not and I want to be very clear about that, we must make sure schools are safe environments for young people and their staff which is why the guidance published last week is so important.”
The Scottish Government announced last week that coronavirus guidance for schools will be slightly updated for when pupils return in the new year, with an increased focus on ventilation and keeping different groups of children apart.
The government is advising schools to group pupils in an attempt to minimise contact and the potential spread of the virus and discourages large group gatherings such as assemblies.
That is why if for a period we as adults need to accept some further sacrifices
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
However the updated grouping guidance will not be applicable for pupils on transport to and from school because of “significant operational difficulties”.
Existing measures such as face coverings, physical distancing for teachers and testing will be retained, but the guidance aims to reduce the “blanket isolation of whole classes” with fewer children being told to self-isolate.
Ms Sturgeon said the best way of keeping schools safe and getting them to open normally on time is to suppress community transmission of the virus
She said: “That is why if for a period we as adults need to accept some further sacrifices, then if that helps us ensure normality in our schools, then while none of us will enjoy it and while it will not be easy for anybody or for businesses, that is one good reason I think why we should accept that and work together to get transmission down.”