'Proportionate action' to be taken if in-school Covid-19 transmission discovered

Entire schools could close or individual classes told to stay home if in-school transmission is found to be occurring.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney gave an update on schools at today's briefing.
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney gave an update on schools at today's briefing.

Schools could see individual classes sent home or be closed entirely if in-school transmission of Covid-19 is discovered, the First Minister said today.

In response to a question about when the Scottish Government would intervene and shut schools, Nicola Sturgeon said there would be a “risk-based judgements” made on each individual school.

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Deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney said “proportionate action” would be taken and that decisions would be made to “maximise” access to learning for children.

Ms Sturgeon said ‘trigger points’ for school closures if infections are found to have taken place will not be considered and instead decisions will be made on an individual school basis.

The comments came after primary school pupils in Blairgowrie, Perth and Paisley tested positive, as have secondary pupils in Baillieston, northeast Glasgow, and Coatbridge and Airdrie in North Lanarkshire this week.

The First Minsiter said: “Our first task is to avoid that happening, just as I can’t rule out lockdown restrictions at some point in the future I can’t rule out having a cluster or an outbreak which starts in a school.

"Everything we are doing is to try and avoid that and risk-based judgements will be made in individual schools if a class has to be sent home or if the whole school has to close for a period and it’s important that we make those judgements on that basis rather than setting blanket trigger points right now.

"Obviously if community transmission was to get back to the kind of levels we saw at a much much earlier stage of this through March and April, then having schools open full time there may be a different conclusion reached about that.

"But we are not at that stage and everything we are trying to do right now as far as we possibly can is designed to stop us getting back to that stage.

"This is not something we are complacent about but we also know that damage has been done to our kids from not having school for such an extended period.”

Mr Swinney added that “proportionate action” would be taken if necessary, and repeated that blended learning measures are available if needed.

He said: “We have the enhanced surveillance and testing program within schools which is designed to provide a further level of data and assurance about the measures that are being taken within schools to minimise any cases that emerge.

"We would be very much focused on taking proportionate action along with local authorities to try to maximise the availability of young people to be to access learning.

"We did invest a lot of time and energy in the creation of the blended learning model which was designed to deliver educational continuity where we were unable to do so on a full-time basis.

"Those plans are still available in all schools around the country should they be required but fundamentally our efforts and attention are focused on trying to minimise community transmission so we protect schools and we can maximise the access to learning for children and young people.”

The comments followed a reiteration that distancing and face coverings were not required in schools while Covid-19 prevalence is low, but that distancing should be encouraging and those wishing to wear face masks should be able to do so.

Mr Swinney said there was “no evidence of transmission of schools” and added face coverings had “some negative effects on communication and learning.”

He said: “These risks need to be kept in balance and the group will continue to keep that evidence under review.”

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