Scots schools not 'untouchable', says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that schools are not "untouchable" as she was quizzed about the prospect of an extended closure over the Christmas break.

But the First Minister insisted the objective remains to "keep schools open".

The SNP leader was appearing before MSPs on Holyrood's Covid-19 committee today and again said a national lockdown cannot be ruled out in Scotland as the latest figures show a spike in cases and deaths.

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Students and staff wear masks during a history lesson at Armadale Academy Higher History S5/S6 Armadale Academy students/pupils wear masks in the classroom along with their teacher West Lothian has been placed into Tier 3 alon with the rest of the Central Belt COVID 19, CORONA VIRUS - From today teachers and S4-S6 pupils must wear face masks/face coverings in classrooms in the new tier 3 and tier 4 COVID 19 restrictions. Senior pupils and their teachers are being advised to wear face coverings in classrooms for schools in the new level 3 and 4 restriction areas. The Scottish government has released new guidance on school safety to take account of the five-level Covid alert system, which begins on Monday. Other guidance advises staff to wear face coverings in all schools, where social distancing is not possible. And parents should wear masks even at drop-off and pick-up.

Labour's Monica Lennon asked whether schools could be closed over a longer period over Christmas break in a move to halt transmission of the virus.

"What are you going to do about schools?" Ms Lennon asked.

"Are they untouchable or is there more that can be done both to enhance measures in schools, but are you thinking about possibly extending the school break over the Christmas and New Year period?

"That didn't happen in October. Is that something you regret?"

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears before the Scottish Parliament's Covid-19 Committee to give evidence. Picture: Andrew Cowan - Pool/Getty Images

The First Minister has always insisted the priority is to keep schools open as other restrictions are introduced around the country and said she did not regret sticking to the October break as planned.

But she added: "In the context we're dealing with here, nothing is untouchable because you can't have that position.

"I can't sit here and say come what may, we will not do X, or come what may we will do Y. That would take us into that inflexible position, which I just don't think is sensible to have given what we're dealing with.

"But with schools it is where I think the balance of harms comes most into focus. The more you have schools impacted and the schools experience of young people impacted, the more you are doing harm to young people through the lack of proper, normal educational provision and social interaction with peers and friends and wider networks.

"Our judgement is that that is a greater harms than having schools is open is doing in terms of the wider picture of transmission."

Ms Sturgeon added: "If at all possible our objective should be to keep schools open because that is in the interests of young people.

"We will try to do that as far as possible and the price of that at times may be greater restrictions on the rest of the population to facilitate and enable that.”

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