Primary school children are parting from their parents for their first time in months today as Scotland’s youngest pupils return to school.
Those in primary one to three are the first to move back to in-classroom lessons amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown in Scotland.
The school drop off and pick-up will look slightly different to when the youngsters returned to school first time around, back in August, with public health measures being ramped up for this return which follows a near-two month period of at-home learning since the Boxing Day lockdown was introduced.
Parents and carers dropping off and collecting pupils are asked to do so wearing a mask, avoiding car sharing or public transport, while maintaining a social distance and doing the drop alone so as to reduce congestion.
Scientific and clinical evidence
In a letter to parents, national clinical director Jason Leitch urged families to feel safe in the knowledge the decision to send the youngest pupils back was “informed by a range of scientific and clinical evidence,” but that it is by no means a “return to normal”.
He said: “It is natural to be nervous about the return to early learning centres and school, especially with the news of different variants of coronavirus.
“Our national guidance has been updated, and early learning centres and schools will be reviewing their risk assessments and may be enhancing some of their own measures.
“It is important that we don’t treat the return to school or early learning as an indication that we can relax the rules elsewhere, as this could lead to an increase in community transmission.
“While children are mixing at their early learning centres or school, it’s still important that they don’t start having indoor play dates at home. We know it is important for children’s wellbeing to be able to play with friends, but, for now, it’s really important that this is outdoors.”
Holyrood education secretary John Swinney told the BBC’s Sunday Show he believed the decision was a safe one, and that they’ll be monitoring any effect the return to schools has on the R number.
“Adults making sure that they follow all of the physical distancing and mask wearing requirements at the school gates is critical to make sure the return of young children, who are much less susceptible to transmitting the virus is not in some ways undermined by the fact that there is essentially an increase risk of transmission because people feel we are perhaps getting back to normal and we can engage as we would normally engage with others in society.”
‘We need to stick to all of the lockdown measures’
Meanwhile, more than 500 parents or carers logged in to an online question and answer session ahead of today’s return to school to discuss their concerns and worries.
Co-hosted by Public Health Scotland and the National Parent Forum of Scotland, the first session covered the science behind the full reopening of early learning centres and the return of P1 to P3 today.
A second session takes place tonight, and there’s information on the NPFS website.
Meanwhile local authorities are also urging parents not to drop their guard.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman added: “It goes without saying that our schools will become one of the few places in our communities where people gather in person.
If your wee ones are in the age group to be getting ready for the drop-off tomorrow morning, this might be useful. #besafe #earlyyears
“Adults socialising with each other before, during and after drop-off and pick-up does pose an increased Covid risk.
“We absolutely understand the temptation to catch up in these circumstances, but need to all be aware that in order for us to be able to continue school reopening to other pupils we must ensure that we are doing so as safely as possible. We also need to stick to all of the lockdown measures to help prevent any further spread.”