SCOTLAND’S schools will begin re-opening from August 11 - with teachers returning to draw up socially distanced learning plans next month.

Nicola Sturgeon has outlined her four-stage route map to lifting the Covid-19 lockdown – which includes all schools re-opening in August, in the third phase, but with a "blended model", with part-time teaching in school and part-time at home. 

Teaching unions have welcomed the clarity from the Scottish Government but have warned that the blended learning strategy is “potentially the biggest curriculum challenge of this century”. 

When schools re-open, they will need to put in place physical distancing measures including ensuring seating is at least two metres apart while arrival, departure and break times will be staggered. 

Schools will also need to increase levels of hand-washing or the use of sanitisers, alongside enhanced cleaning and put protocols in place for suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases. 

Class sizes will be significantly reduced, with most pupils spending half of their learning time physically in schools and the rest at home. 

Libraries, community halls, leisure centres, conference venues or even vacant business space could be harnessed to increase the tome children can spend with teachers in an expanded school estate. 

Former teachers may also be asked to return to the classroom or provide lessons virtually to support in-home learning. 

The re-opening of schools is dependent on the coronavirus continuing to be suppressed. 

To allow the strategy to be accessed by all children, the Scottish Government has pledged £30 million to provide laptops for “disadvantaged children and young people to study online”. 

A new document drawn up by the Scottish Government and local councils alongside the route map acknowledges that the school closures “are considered to be having a negative effect on all aspects of children’s progress and development including their wellbeing”. 

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The framework indicates that “the majority view” on Scotland’s chief medical officer’s advisory group was that “it would be appropriate to consider actions to support distancing guidance in schools and situations where children are in indoor environments for extended periods of time”.  

It has concluded that “almost all children and young people will experience a blend of in-school and in-home learning from the start of the school year in August 2020”. 

The document states that the Scottish Government aims to “restart school education for almost all children and young people in Scotland in August”.

It adds that “subject to public health guidance, teachers and other school staff should be returning to schools at some point during June” and plans should be drawn up to “prepare for the new blended model of learning to be implemented from August”. 

It adds: “This new model, which will ensure adherence to safeguarding protocols such as appropriate physical distancing, will include part-time in-school learning and part-time in-home learning for almost all children.  

“Health and safety guidance, including risk assessments, will be in place prior to staff returning to school in June. The start date of the new term will be standardised to 11 August 2020 only for the purposes of managing Covid-19, which will mean an earlier than planned start for some schools.” 

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Announcing the route map in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “During June and over the summer, an increased number of children will have access to critical childcare - such as has been provided for the children of key workers during lockdown. 

“We will provide, where possible, transition support for children going into primary 1 or moving from primary 7 to secondary school. 

“From 11 August, all schools will re-open. However, to allow appropriate physical distancing, children will return to a blended model of part time in-school and part time at-home learning. 

“These arrangements will not represent a complete return to normality by August. But we judge them to be the most sensible approach we can plan for at this stage.” 

Union leaders have warned that drawing up blended learning plans will be challenging for teaching staff. 

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on schools, pupils and teachers over the past months. 

"Our members will welcome the clarity provided by the First Minister's announcement today, and the clear statement that schools will not re-open until after the summer and only if health conditions allow. 

"This will provide valuable time to allow schools to prepare for what will be a very different learning environment, with physical distancing requiring smaller class sizes and schools delivering a blended approach of part time in-school learning and part time remote learning for most pupils." 

He added: "The EIS has worked constructively with the Scottish Government and with local authorities throughout this crisis and will continue to do so in the best interests of learners and teachers. 

"There is a strong shared commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of everyone in the school community. Delivering a new blended learning approach is potentially the biggest curriculum challenge of this century, however, and it will require significant commitment from all parties to make it work." 

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Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT union, has appealed for the Scottish Government to continue its “cautious” stance on re-opening schools. 

He said: “The NASUWT has previously welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision not to rush ahead with the reopening of schools. 

“As plans are now starting to be set out of how schools might begin to reopen in the coming months, it will be critical that ministers maintain a cautious approach which does not undermine public health or put at risk the health and safety of teachers or children.” 

He added:  “As more detail emerges on arrangements, the NASUWT will evaluate them and advise members in the light of the key tests it has established around making schools Covid-19 secure and minimising risk. 

“The NASUWT’s bottom line remains that no teacher or pupil should be expected to return to school until it can be demonstrated that it is safe to do so.”