Scottish pupils will continue wearing masks for the first six weeks of the new term – but close contacts of Covid cases will no longer have to self-isolate, provided they have a negative PCR test result.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the change during a statement to MSPs on Tuesday afternoon.
It comes after a decline in the coronavirus case rate and with schools preparing to reopen following the summer holidays.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If a young person aged 5 to 17 is identified as a close contact, they will need to take a PCR test – but they can end their self-isolation if they test negative.
“Children under the age of 5 will be encouraged but not required to take a PCR test.
“This means that the blanket isolation of whole classes will no longer be routine. Instead a more targeted approach will identify close contacts at highest risk of infection.
“So fewer young people will have to self-isolate, and most will be asked to self-isolate for a much shorter period of time.”
She added: “For up to 6 weeks – subject then to review – there will be a continued requirement for staff to keep at least 1 metre distance from each other and from children and young people while on the school estate.
“We have also decided, after careful consideration, to retain the current requirements for face coverings in schools for staff and for children aged 12 or over. That includes asking young people and staff in secondary schools to wear face coverings during lessons, and while inside school buildings.”
As part of plans to boost ventilation, all schools and day care services for children must have access to CO2 monitoring through either fixed or mobile devices
The planned changes announced by the First Minister – particularly those affecting self-isolation arrangements – could have significant implications for the decision on whether to hold a normal exams diet next year.
Last term, all pupils identified as close contacts of a positive case were forced to isolate for ten days – even if subsequent tests came back negative.
The arrangement brought significant disruption to youngsters, their families and schools.