School reopening arrangements for January 2021: impact assessment

Considers the impact of the extended school holiday period by a week, and the introduction of remote learning from January 2021 in light of COVID-19 on children and young people, parents and carers, and the education workforce.


On 19 December 2020 the First Minster announced a phased start to the spring term 2021. These exceptional arrangements were intended to ensure sufficient time to assess the impacts of the festive period on community transmission in light of a new strain of the virus having emerged, prior to the full reopening of schools. Following a reassessment of COVID-19 cases across Scotland, and in line with emerging evidence on the new strain of COVID-19, the First Minister confirmed in her statement[4] on 4 January that remote learning would extend until the end of January. In a subsequent statement[5] on 19 January 2021, It was updated that this period would extend until mid-February.

In summary:

  • After the festive break, schools were to reopen in line with their previously agreed term dates (starting from Tuesday 5 January 2021). However, during this first week of opening (5 January to 8 January), attendance in schools should be restricted to:
    • Vulnerable children and children of key workers only.
    • All 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.
  • The expectation was that provision during this first week of operation may be limited to in-school childcare and wellbeing support for vulnerable children and key worker children.
  • With the exception of those children meeting the definitions of vulnerable children, or children of key workers, the school holiday period was effectively extended for all children until Monday 11 January.
  • From Monday 11 January, vulnerable children and the children of key workers continued to attend school in person. Schools were to switch from offering childcare and wellbeing support to offering learning and teaching.
  • All other pupils to be provided with an appropriate timetable of remote learning from Monday 11 January.
  • These arrangements were originally intended to apply until 18 January, in line with Educational Continuity Direction (ECD) No.6[6]. However this has since been extended under ECDs No.7 and No.8 in line with scientific advice.



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