First Scottish pupils back at their desks in two weeks

The return of some pupils to schools in Scotland will get under way in just over a fortnight after months of lockdown, it has been has announced.

It came as Nicola Sturgeon said she has “never been more proud” of the people of Scotland as the country yesterday embraced the first phase of its exit from stay-at-home restrictions as temperatures soared.

But the First Minister warned that any let-up in the key public measures on social distancing and hand washing that sees a flare-up in cases could see the country plunged straight back into “strict lockdown”. The partial resumption of outdoor activities yesterday came as it was announced that children in “key transition groups” will return to school on Monday 15 June in East Renfrewshire.

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Nursery children in pre-school year and current P7s will return to educational settings on a rota basis, following all national social distancing guidance, the council said yesterday.

A pupil of a key worker in the classroom at Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Scottish Government’s guidance on the return of schools last week said transitioning pupils would be going back in June to “lay the foundations” for learning in the next session, but East Renfrewshire is the first to set a date.

It is understood parents of some Glasgow primary schools have also been advised by teaching staff that their children will be returning on 15 June, although the council has said no dates have yet been agreed.

Pupils across Scotland are expected to return from 11 August with a combination of in-school teaching and at-home learning.

Teachers will be allowed to return to classrooms from Monday to prepare. East Renfrewshire Council’s convener for education and equalities Paul O’Kane said: “This is the first step on our road to recovery and we will provide details of the approach which will be taken to blended learning in August as soon as is possible.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing

Scots got the first chance to meet up with family and friends yesterday after two months of lockdown, as hospital cases and deaths from the virus continued to fall after two months of stay-at-home restrictions.

“I have never been prouder of this country than I am right now,” Ms Sturgeon told the daily coronavirus briefing yesterday.

Ms Sturgeon reiterated her plea to ensure any meetings with other households adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The First Minister also wants people to ensure items such as cutlery and food are not shared and they do not enter homes that are not their own.

Scots are still being urged to avoid crowds at parks and beauty spots across the country, with the advice to go elsewhere if areas are busy and not to travel further than five miles from home.

Ms Sturgeon said she remained “nervous” about the easing of measures in case more people begin to flout the remaining rules, which she warned would lead to a resurgence in the virus and more deaths.

“I’m not trying at all to cramp anyone’s fun this weekend, I really do want everyone to enjoy these changes because all of you have more than earned it, but I am asking you to please do so responsibly, “ she said.

“If you are in doubt about whether your plans are within the rules or not, err on the side of caution.

“However harsh these rules might feel right now, and I know that they do, abiding by them will never, ever be as harsh as grieving the loss of a loved one.”

But she was clear about the consequences if Scots don’t obey the rules and allowed coronavirus cases to flare up again.

“It is possible that we would be back in the strict days of lockdown and be there for longer,” Ms Sturgeon added.

People must still remain outdoors and should continue to socially distance, with the maximum number in the group restricted to eight.

People are also allowed to sit or sunbathe in nearby parks and travel locally for recreation.

Further changes as the country moved into phase one of the Scottish Government’s four-part plan for gradually lifting lockdown included outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, bowls and fishing being permitted, and garden centres reopening.

Most outdoor work can resume, construction sites can prepare for work to start again and drive-through restaurants are no longer being discouraged from opening.

The latest figures yesterday showed 15,327 people have tested positive for the virus across Scotland, a rise of 39 from 15,288 on Thursday. A total of 2,331 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up 15 from 2,316 on the previous day.

There are 1,216 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a fall of 22 in 24 hours from 1,238. Of these, 40 were in intensive care, an increase of three.

Police have also warned people to avoid busy areas and beauty spots as lockdown eases.

“We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices until now, and, while the temptation may be to head straight for one of our beauty spots, we would ask people to use their judgment and avoid going to places which are normally busy during the good weather,” Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone said.

“Complying with the legislation about meeting only one other household outdoors at any one time and following the Scottish Government’s guidance about avoiding travelling long distances will stop our parks, beaches, lochs and hills from becoming overcrowded and help ensure appropriate physical distancing is maintained, reducing the spread of Coronavirus..”

Further changes will come in next week, with teachers and other staff allowed to re-enter schools from Monday to prepare for the proposed return.

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