Purpose and background
Purpose of this guidance
This guidance has been issued in response to the First Minster’s announcement of 19 December 2020 and updated following her statements to Parliament on 4 January and 19 January 2021. It is intended to provide clarity on arrangements for school education in January/February 2021. The arrangements set out in this guidance are currently expected to be in place until at least mid-February, subject to further regular reviews.
This guidance, therefore, supplements the existing Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance specifically to support schools and local authorities during January/February 2021. All aspects of the existing guidance and accompanying mitigations continue to apply while schools are open.
These exceptional arrangements are being put in place as a precautionary measure in light of the latest developments in the path of the virus. A range of previously published evidence has made clear that schools are not high risk environments when the appropriate mitigations and safety measures outlined in the Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance are implemented, and this remains our judgement – there is to date no evidence that in-school transmission is a significant driver of increasing infection levels.
However, the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 means that reopening schools at this time would not be consistent with a safety-first approach for children, young people and school staff. This is because:
- the overall level of community transmission is currently high. Controlling levels of community transmission plays an important role in ensuring that our schools can stay safe, open and welcoming – this approach is reflected in the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 strategic framework protection levels.
- evidence about any impact of the new variant on transmission amongst children and young people is still being assessed.
These exceptional arrangements are therefore intended to ensure sufficient time to reduce community transmission and to assess the implications of the new variant of the virus.
It is the Scottish Government’s intention that schools (and nurseries) should be the first places to reopen as we emerge from lockdown, when it is safe to do so.