SCOTLAND’S schools will begin reopening on a limited basis from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed during this afternoon’s Holyrood update.

The First Minister updated MSPs on the current lockdown restrictions, explaining that in the main there would be no changes to the Stay at Home rules in place. This requirement will remain in place until at least the beginning of March – “and possibly for a further period beyond that”, she added.

Despite the vaccination scheme speeding up, “our situation is still very fragile”, the First Minister said.

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“Over the last few weeks the sacrifices everyone has continued to make have helped bring about good progress. All of the news has been very encouraging. However, our room for manoeuvre remains very limited,” she explained.

Sturgeon said we must be driven “much more by data than by date” – warning this year’s exit from lockdown is likely to be more cautious than last summer.

The Government is hoping to publish a detailed framework on how Scotland can emerge from lockdown next week following discussions with business organisations, trade unions, third sector bodies and others.

In the mean time, we must be “willing” to make the trade off of living with restrictions for longer to allow children to get back to education, she said.

Until then the main change will be schools – from Monday, February 22, pre-school children, pupils in primary 1, 2 and 3 and a small number of senior students who need school access for essential practical work can return.

There will also be a limited increase in the provision of schooling for vulnerable children.

“We will need to monitor the impact of this change very carefully before taking any further decisions, the First Minister said.

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“However, I hope we will be able to set out the second phase of school re-opening in two weeks’ time.

“I want to be clear, though, that the need to properly assess the impact of this limited re-opening means we think it unlikely, at this stage, that there will be any further return to school before 15 March.”

She added that when senior pupils, teachers and school staff start returning, the Scottish Government will make lateral flow tests available to them twice a week.

Guidance on testing has been issued to schools and local authorities, while more than 2200 schools have now received test kit deliveries.

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“In addition, senior secondary pupils will be required to observe two metre physical distancing while in school, and on school transport, in the period immediately after the return,” Sturgeon added.

To help with the additional safety mitigations the Government will be providing local authorities and schools with an extra £40 million as part of a wider £100m school recovery package.

Ministers have also decided that “all teachers and lecturers involved in awarding national qualifications this year will receive a one-off payment of £400”.