When do schools go back in Scotland? Date secondary pupils return - and Covid testing plan explained

There will be a full return to school for all Scottish pupils after the Easter break

Scotland’s pupils are returning to school in phases due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The country’s youngest pupils headed back to classrooms on Monday 22 February as part of the gradual reopening announced by Nicola Sturgeon.

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Children in primaries four to seven then returned to school full-time from 15 March, alongside a phased return of secondary school pupils.

Schools have started a phased return in Scotland (Shutterstock)

But when do other pupils in Scotland go back to school?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Which pupils have already gone back to school?

Following the closure of all schools during the nationwide lockdown, pupils started a “phased and gradual return” from Monday 22 February.

That included all children in primary one to three, and those in pre-school, heading back to classrooms.

A “limited number of senior phase students” who need to go to school to complete essential practical work also returned to school on that date.

Vulnerable children and the children of key workers were still able to go to class as normal.

Then, addressing the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 2 March, Ms Sturgeon announced that the next phase of reopening education, part of the roadmap out of lockdown, would go ahead as planned.

On Monday 15 March primaries four to seven returned to school on a full time basis.

All primary school children also returned to regulated childcare, including after school and breakfast clubs.

From the same date, there was a phased return of secondary school pupils.

When will other pupils return?

All high school students began face-to-face lessons on a part time basis, but many will continue to do some learning at home until after Easter.

Students in the senior phase of secondary school – years four to six – who are taking national qualifications will be prioritised for physical lessons in school.

Ms Sturgeon has said she expects all secondary school pupils to go back to school on a full time basis following the Easter holidays.

And when secondary pupils do go back, face coverings will need to be worn at all times.

There will also be twice-weekly lateral flow testing for all school staff in primary, secondary and special schools, and for all secondary school pupils in years four, five and six.

Local authorities will be asked to continue to observe the current two metre physical distancing in secondary schools, at least until the Easter holidays.

Why have schools stayed closed?

The Scottish Government had announced before Christmas that most school pupils would learn remotely, instead of face-to-face, until Monday 18 January.

But thanks to an exponential rise in Covid cases thought to be caused by the new, more transmissible strain of the virus, the First Minister confirmed during her lockdown announcement that schools would not reopen until at least 1 February.

That date was then extended again until 22 February as community transmission of the virus was still too high to guarantee safety in schools.

As lockdown has worked to curb the spread of Covid-19, pupils have started a phased return as part of a gradual and cautious easing of lockdown restrictions.

It is hoped that all pupils will have gone back after the Easter holiday.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly said that reopening schools is a “top priority”, and one of the reasons for bringing in tighter lockdown restrictions was to ensure pupils could return sooner.

Ms Sturgeon said there would be “trade offs” when it comes to easing lockdown restrictions.

She explained: “Being able to get children back to education may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer”.

Will there be exams this year?

Education Secretary John Swinney announced in December that Highers and National 5 exams would be cancelled in the summer of 2021.

Instead, provisional results for individual pupils will be submitted by teachers to the SQA by 28 May 2021.

The decision was based on the disruption that Covid-19 has caused to the education system rather than due to safety concerns, he stressed.

Because many pupils are learning remotely, some students may struggle to access online learning and the stress of the changes could put them at an unfair disadvantage, Mr Swinney said.

Mr Swinney confirmed that exams will not be replaced by the algorithm which last year led to unfair grades for thousands of school pupils.

The Scottish Government will take into account students’ individual circumstances, given the anticipated greater impact of cancelled exams on poorer children.