Nicola Sturgeon 'not raising parents’ expectations' as she issues school reopening update

Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that schools are unlikely to reopen in early February as she is set to announce the decision of a review of restrictions around schools to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The First Minister said she would not be drawn on the decision, which is due to be made by the Cabinet on Tuesday morning, but stressed she did not want to “raise anyone's expectations” that restrictions could be lifted.

All schools are currently closed to all pupils – apart from children of key workers – until at least January 29.

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SNP complains to BBC about being frozen out of Nicola Sturgeon briefing coverage
Nicola Sturgeon will announce whether schools are to reopen in February tomorrow

The Scottish Government has regularly said schools staying open is their top priority and Ms Sturgeon has said tougher restrictions may be the way to ensure they open sooner than otherwise possible.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said that “some positive signs” with case numbers were beginning to appear, but the level of community transmission was still high.

She said: “I am not going to pre-empt a decision that we are going to take tomorrow.

"We will consider the position on schools as we said we would … and I will set out the conclusion on that.

"I am not going to raise parent’s expectations. You can see from the numbers that we are seeing some positive signs in the numbers that lockdown is starting to stabilise things and hopefully start to tip them into decline.

"But transmission is still higher than we would want it to be and therefore I am not going to raise anyone’s expectations about schools being back on February 1, but nor am I going to stand here and make assumptions about a decision we won’t actually take until tomorrow.

"In fairness to teachers, parents and young people, as soon as we have taken any decision tomorrow I will set that out to Parliament.

"We want to get schools back as quickly as we possibly can. It is not in the interests of kids to be out of school for any longer than is absolutely necessary, but community transmission has always been a key factor in these decisions.”

The impact on school children of the new variant of Covid-19 first identified in the south-east of England is still uncertain.

Part of the reasoning for initially shutting schools included the possibility the new variant spreads more easily among young people and was part of the exponential spread seen in London around Christmas.

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith did not answer when asked whether he believed it was safe to reopen schools in Scotland.

However, any decision to keep schools closed is likely to have the support of the public.

Almost three quarters of Scots believe it was the right decision to close schools in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19, according to a poll published last week.

The poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman, interviewed 1,016 people online between January 8 and 13.

The figures show 72 per cent of Scots support somewhat or strongly support the decision to close schools, with just 7 per cent ‘somewhat’ opposing the move and 4 per cent – or one in 25 Scots – strongly opposing the move.

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