All primary schools in Orkney will be fully open to nursery and primary pupils from 15 March in line with the Scottish Government phase two of the return to education.
This means P4-P7 children will be joining their P1-P3 classmates - who have been back at school since last month (February) – in the classroom once again.
Those who returned, in the February phase one return, include as already mentioned P1-P3 pupils; all those in our smallest schools, where there are fewer than 26 pupils – Eday, North Ronaldsay, North Walls, Papay, Rousay, Shapinsay. A further allowance was possible in a limited number of instances, where there are composite classes of pupils from different year groups and some pupils in P4 and P5 were invited to return on the basis that exclusion would establish a new vulnerability.
This now means that arrangements in primary schools for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers will end, and these children will re-join their normal classes. Schools will contact parents/carers directly with specific details of the planned return, including reiteration of the risk mitigations in place, and will provide further updates as necessary.
From 15 March, all secondary pupils in Orkney will receive some in-school teaching each week until the Easter break, and Papdale Halls of Residence will partially re-open for secondary pupils who require accommodation to attend their Mainland schools.
Childcare for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers will continue as necessary for secondary aged pupils. Each school will inform parents/carers of its approach to safely balancing remote and in-school learning based on local circumstances and needs.
Senior phase students (S4-S6) who are taking national qualifications will have priority for face-to-face lessons in school. It is the Scottish Government’s expectation that all secondary school pupils will be back in school on a full-time basis after the Easter holidays. Schools will contact parents/carers directly with details of when individual pupils should attend school.
OIC Head of Education, Peter Diamond, said: “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, all staff have worked tirelessly to establish new models and arrangement for childcare, education and welfare structures to support implementation of a phased return to schools.
“These latest plans are conditional on continued progress on suppressing the coronavirus COVID-19. Detailed guidance from the Scottish Government is expected to be published over the course of the coming week, and schools will provide further updates to parents/carers as necessary.”
Existing risk mitigations will continue to apply in primary schools and primary school transport. Secondary school pupils will be required to observe 2M social distancing, reduced to 1M when using school transport, and, unless exempt, to wear face coverings at all times.
The programme of voluntary at-home COVID-19 testing for staff and senior phase students will remain in place meantime.
All key stakeholders, including parents, carers, staff and face-to-face service-providers, will receive information on any changes to arrangements for minimising risk, such as face coverings, testing and physical distancing, should the detail of Scottish Government guidance be further revised.
School meals will be available for primary pupils, and secondary pupils when they are in school at lunchtime, and those entitled will receive free school meals. Direct payments to parents/carers of pupils entitled to free school meals will continue, for those days where they are not scheduled to attend, until a full-time return to school for all pupils is achieved.
If you require additional support or information in the meantime, please contact your school in the first instance.