Nurseries and schools in Orkney will join the rest of Scotland in a planned phased reopening from Monday 22 February.
All pre-school children and pupils in P1-P3 will return to the classroom, while the children of eligible keyworkers and vulnerable families will continue to be invited to attend across nursery, primary and secondary settings. All categories of keyworker, from one to three, will remain eligible to place their children in school in the first instance.
Additionally, in the case of primary settings, an exception is made for those very small schools, with 25 pupils of fewer, in rural and island communities which have the entire primary cohort in a single class. In such settings in Orkney all pupils, from P1 to P7, will be invited to attend.
There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils - S4, S5 and S6 - to allow them to complete work for national qualifications. Schools will communicate directly with these pupils in respect of individual timetables for attendance.
It is important to note that, while the process of vaccinating the population continues, we must continue with all mitigating measures in schools prior to the Christmas break in the fight against Covid-19. Handwashing, enhanced cleaning and ventilation, the use of face coverings and zero tolerance to symptoms will continue. In addition, the two-metre distancing rule applying to adults working in schools and nurseries will be extended to also include secondary-aged pupils attending school and while using school transport. Physical distancing requirements in primary schools and early learning settings remain unchanged.
The First Minister’s latest announcement today (16 February) confirmed these details. Nicola Sturgeon also outlined the Scottish Government’s plans for the next phase of the gradual return to schools for P4,5, 6 and 7 and S1-3, alongside in-person learning for colleges and universities. The intention of Scottish Government is to review the situation on 2 March and, as long as the virus continues to be suppressed, extend further the number of pupils eligible to attend school.
Adults working in, and senior phase (S4, S5 and S6) pupils attending school will be encouraged to participate in the national programme of voluntary, at-home, Covid-19 testing twice a week. Schools are in the process of contacting those senior-phase pupils eligible to participate in the testing programme to provide more information and seek the necessary consent. Parents and students who have not already heard from the school should expect to do so before the end of this week.
Letters will be sent out to parents and carers this week outlining the detail and implications of this latest directive.
The Council’s Executive Director of Education, Leisure and Housing, James Wylie, said: “We will continue to follow Scottish Government directives and keep parents and carers informed as timeously as possible as and when we receive formal, written communication from the Scottish Government.”