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Physical distancing in schools is not necessary, according to new advice

Scotland’s secretary for education, John Swinney, says plans continue to be developed as to how to reopen schools safely.

No physical distancing is required between children and young people in primary and secondary schools so long as infection rates of COVID-19 remain low, according to a Scottish Government education recovery group.

Distancing will also be unnecessary on school transport, according to the advice published by the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues.

But staff should remain two-metres apart where possible, and some aspects of school life should not be reintroduced straight away.

Higher-risk activities such as assemblies, choirs, drama and gym should be reintroduced gradually, the advice recommends.

Schools are due to reopen on August 11 to all pupils and staff.

The advice will inform the development of comprehensive guidance on how to ensure the safe reopening of schools for learners, teachers and families.

This includes a package of measures on hygiene and contact management that must be in place to reduce the transmission of the virus and which will form part of the future guidance.

These measures include:

  • there should be an increased emphasis on hand hygiene and surface cleaning. Hand washing and/or sanitising should be required for everyone on every entry to the school.
  • as close as possible to zero tolerance of symptoms should be in place, and strict compliance with the Test and Protect system.
  • in both primary and secondary settings, the preference should be to avoid large gatherings and crowded spaces and, as much as possible, to keep pupils within the same groups for the duration of the school day.
  • sharing of equipment/utensils/toys/books should be minimised; and smaller groups and more outdoor activities put in place.
  • movement between schools — of children, and of temporary/ supply/peripatetic staff should be kept to an absolute minimum.

For pupils using public transport, the advice recommends that guidance from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland should continue to apply.

Education secretary John Swinney said: “This scientific advice will inform the way schools can re-open safely from August 11, if infection rates continue to remain low.

“The Education Recovery Group which comprises local authorities, parent representatives and teachers’ organisations and trades unions, has been developing plans for how to open schools safely for everyone.

“We are considering this advice as we develop comprehensive guidance which will give confidence to our school communities that the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff is ensured as we welcome them back.

“Ensuring the highest quality education for our young people, in a safe environment, must be a priority for us all and I know that everyone is committed to make sure that children’s education is not adversely affected in the longer term.”

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