In Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon, the First Minister detailed the Scottish Government’s phased plan to lift lockdown and return children to school.
Under the plans, the remainder of primary school pupils and more senior phase secondary pupils will return in the next phase, which will not be before March 15.
Younger secondary children will go back in the final phase of easing lockdown, which will be at least three weeks later, on the same date the stay at home order is rescinded.
The news comes as the first three years of primary schools and some later phase secondary pupils, required to undertake essential practical work, were allowed to return this week.
Announcing the move, the First Minister described returning all children to in-person schooling as “the immediate priority” for the Scottish Government.
Jo Bisset, organiser of UsForThem Scotland, who have repeatedly criticised the Scottish Government’s approach to education during the pandemic, said: “This appalling decision leaves secondary pupils on the scrapheap.
“Despite all the warnings and the evidence about harm being caused to young people through schools being closed, still the First Minister won’t listen.
“Her government is very deliberately choosing a course of action that will wreck their education and obliterate the formative years of their lives.
“Parents have been patient to this point but those with children above primary school will be utterly furious at this.
“The damage being done now is obvious, or at least it should be to ministers, but there are problems for the future too.”
With secondary pupils not returning until at least April 5 in Scotland, Ms Bisset said pupils in England will receive two months more of teaching than their counterparts north of the border, due to schools breaking up earlier for the summer holiday.
Unveiling the revised road map out of lockdown , the First Minister said it was important that cases of the virus, particularly of new variants of the virus, were not imported into the country.
She said: “We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus had almost been eliminated. We do not want that to happen again.
“In particular we do not want to import new variants of the virus, which could be more resistant to the vaccines that we are currently using.
“And so the strategic framework rightly emphasises the importance of both travel restrictions and test and protect. They will help us to ease restrictions safely.”
Here is the Scottish Government’s current plan for schools. The dates are indicative and could be revised.
– Steps already taken:
On Monday, children between the ages of four and eight in primaries one to three returned to school, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications and nursery-age children.
– From March 15:
All primary school children will go back to class, with those in primaries four to seven joining their younger classmates who returned on Monday.
More senior secondary pupils will also return.
– From April 5:
All pupils should be back in school.