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Nicola Sturgeon will today announce whether more children can return to Scottish schools

Nicola Sturgeon will announce today whether more children can return to Scottish schools – six days before Boris Johnson tells pupils in England when they can expect to be back in classes

  • Under the plans, all children in early learning and childcare would return
  • Pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 would also be allowed back into school
  • So would those in the senior phase of secondary school, it is suggested 

What are each of the UK’s nations planning? 

ENGLAND: Boris Johnson is due to announce lockdown-easing roadmap, including details on phased return of schools, on February 22. 

SCOTLAND: Nicola Sturgeon will give a statement on Covid and the lockdown to the Scottish Parliament today.    

WALES: Primary schools will begin the process of reopening next Monday as Mark Drakeford announces a ‘review’ of the lockdown on Friday. 

NORTHERN IRELAND: Schools remain closed to most pupils until at least March 8. Stormont is discussing what to do about general restrictions. 

Nicola Sturgeon is set to make a final decision on whether some pupils can return to schools from next Monday.

At the beginning of the month, the First Minister announced that lockdown in Scotland would remain in force until at least the end of February, with some pupils returning to classrooms on February 22.

Under the plans, all children under school age in early learning and childcare would return.

Pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 would also be allowed back into school, as would those in the senior phase of secondary school.

However, the First Minister said older pupils will only be able to return to ensure practical work important to achieving qualifications is completed, and only between 5% and 8% of any school’s roll should return.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is expected to reveal his plans to reopen schools in England on February 22.  

Speaking at the daily briefing yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said these plans would only go ahead if the transmission rate of Covid-19 remained low.

The First Minister said: ‘We will look at the up-to-date data and take a final decision on that tomorrow, as we always said we would.

‘I am very, very, very keen to go ahead with that if at all possible.’

At the beginning of the month, the First Minister announced that lockdown in Scotland would remain in force until at least the end of February, with some pupils returning to classrooms on February 22

How will PM’s road map look? 

The road map for easing lockdown will be unveiled on Monday, setting out the order in which rules will be lifted and the target dates. Here’s what we know so far:

  • The only firm date is March 8, when schools will open.
  • Socialising is the next priority. The plan is to allow individuals to go out with anyone from their own household, for example for a family picnic, or for individuals to see one person from another household.
  • Outdoor sports including golf and tennis may be allowed at some point next month. Ministers are also keen to open leisure centres and gyms but this may take longer.
  • High street stores could open at the end of next month, or the start of April. Hairdressers and beauty salons will follow later.
  • Pubs and restaurants could open in April or May but possibly with customers served at outdoor tables at first.
  • Rules on staying local and travelling in the UK for holidays will probably be eased in May.

Ms Sturgeon said the cabinet would also consider an ‘indicative timetable’ for the next groups of pupils who could return to school.

However, she also warned that now was not the time to expect other lockdown restrictions to be eased.

Dr Liz Cameron, director and chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘The vaccination rollout has been significant across Scotland and the UK, and with vaccination milestones being reached, we now need to understand the conditions at which the economy can begin to reopen.

‘We understand that setting specific dates can be challenging given the unpredictable nature of the virus. However, businesses need to know the trigger points over the next three months that will deliver the reopening of the economy.

‘Only a clear plan to reopen will give businesses the confidence to plan, hire and invest. Without this, businesses and livelihoods face catastrophe.’ 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to end tough restrictions next month that mean people can only leave their homes for work, exercise or to buy essentials.

It comes as NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday vowed to double the number of jabs being given to one million vaccines a day in order for the Government to hit its next target.

As part of the first major easing, ministers plan to overhaul the rules to allow socialising outside from as soon as March 8. Possibly before the end of March, outdoor leisure activities, including golf and tennis, will be permitted.

Boris Johnson is expected to reveal his plans to reopen schools in England on February 22

Boris Johnson is expected to reveal his plans to reopen schools in England on February 22

As well as transmission risks being low as they are played outside, officials believe the public may be spurred into getting fit if the pursuits are among the first things to be allowed. 

It came as a study found there was no evidence having schools open drives the spread of coronavirus in the wider community in the UK, SAGE advisers have found.

In a study of pupil and teacher absences caused by positive Covid tests, researchers said confirmed infections in schools did not lead to bigger outbreaks.

Instead, they said there were small signs that the opposite was true, and that schools tended to get worse hit when the cases around them had rocketed.

Many pupils have been home-schooling for almost all of the past year, except for a brief period between September and December before the second wave spiralled out of control. 

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