Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on schools reopening

Published: 8 Mar 2021
Last updated: 8 Mar 2021 - see all updates

Guidance on arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in March 2021.

14 page PDF

235.4 kB

14 page PDF

235.4 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on schools reopening
School opening arrangements

14 page PDF

235.4 kB

Arrangements for school opening from 15 March

Primary schools

It is expected that all children in primary schools will return to school full time. 

Secondary schools

In secondary schools there will be a combination of in-school learning and remote learning for all S1-S6 pupils. The 8% cap on numbers in secondary schools has been removed.  Secondary schools should look to minimise the movement of young people and staff when in school.

Senior phase learners who are taking national qualifications, must have priority for face to face learning and teaching in school to help ensure they achieve the qualifications they deserve.  In particular, learning and teaching of critical practical work in relation to qualifications in 2021 must continue.  Notwithstanding this, we expect that all young people in secondary schools will receive some in-school education each week from 15 March wherever possible.  Schools and local authorities will decide how to provide this based on local circumstances and needs.  This will allow pupils to engage with their teachers and start seeing friends again. At this time, this is as important for wellbeing as well as for learning.

In the run up to Easter, a high-quality remote learning offer should remain in place, although it is recognised that the nature of it may change given that schools are prioritising face-to-face learning. Education Scotland will ensure that enhanced online resources continue to be available over the coming month. 

Provision will continue for the children of key workers and S1-S6 vulnerable children and young people.  Children and young people who are learning in special schools and enhanced support provision should return to school in the same way as those outlined above.

Attendance in secondary schools will include teaching and non-teaching staff who, in the judgement of the local authority and schools, are required to attend in person to give effect to these revised school reopening arrangements, this could include student teachers undertaking placement practice; and possibly HEI tutors observing their practice.

In seeking to deliver the above, it will be necessary to manage teacher and school leadership workloads.

Learning in the outdoors

The requirement for strict 2 metre distancing in secondary schools may be relaxed when young people are outdoors for the purpose of outdoor activities and learning. The Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools states that the outdoors can provide extra space for distancing between consistent groups of learners, help to decrease the risk of transmission and improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of young people. The recent report from the International Council of Education Advisors underlines this further. Education Scotland advice, published alongside this guidance, advises that learning outdoors can help learners to continue to connect with one another and the school environment, support readiness for the fulltime return to in school learning, and provide experiences which enhance learning.

Outdoor learning should be interpreted broadly, to encompass a wide range of experiences and activities including those focused on learner wellbeing as well as specific activities pertaining to curriculum areas and subjects.  Schools should consider what activities will positively draw in their learners. The Outdoor Learning Directory provides ideas of how outdoor learning can be utilised across the curriculum. Schools can also contact the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education (SAPOE) to access additional advice and support. Further advice on the practice and approach to outdoor learning and the range of options available to schools is available from the Education Scotland Wakelet on outdoor learning and Learning for Sustainability.

Out of school childcare

On 2 March the First Minister announced that regulated school age childcare settings, including breakfast and after school clubs, can reopen for all primary school pupils from 15 March, subject to continued suppression of COVID-19. Until that date, settings have been asked to only remain open for children who may be considered vulnerable, and for the children of key workers.  This could include teachers and other school staff.  

Senior phase school learners attending college

Subject to continued submission of the virus, senior phase school learners studying SCQF level 6 Foundation Apprenticeships in Engineering and Scientific Technologies may commence a limited return to college campuses for essential practical coursework.

From 15 March, colleges will be able to prioritise the return of other senior phase school pupils studying at college who require in-person provision to complete or progress. School pupils returning to college must be included within the current 5% limit on the numbers of students on campus for in-person teaching. Pupils should only be on campus for the duration of the practical work and should continue to learn remotely for those course elements where this is possible.  Temporary lockdown guidance for colleges has also been published.



First published: 8 Mar 2021 Last updated: 8 Mar 2021 -