Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed the announcement that teachers, nursery and school staff can now be tested for Covid-19 on demand if they feel that they have been placed at risk of infection, even if they show no symptoms.

The step has been taken to provide extra assurance for staff as children return to schools and nurseries this week for the first time since lockdown was introduced.

This was confirmed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney in a letter to the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and in a statement to Parliament which laid out the details of the £135 million of support previously announced for schools, including £80 million to bring additional teachers and staff into Scotland’s classrooms in the new school year. The funding is enough for local authorities to recruit approximately 1,400 teachers.

Ms Maguire said: “The reopening of schools, nurseries and early learning facilities is the most significant step taken so far in our route out of lockdown. Ensuring the safety of staff and pupils will be fundamental at this time so providing on demand access for staff testing is a sensible approach to reassure those concerned they have been exposed to potential infection.

“The routine and structure provided by schools is crucial for the development of children in North Ayrshire and across Scotland who have missed out on lessons and seeing their friends for so long. Steps such as testing for staff will help to ensure that this is not jeopardised and that minimal disruption happens in the new term.”

Mr Swinney said: “Ensuring the highest quality education for our young people, in a safe environment, is our absolute priority.

“Thanks to our success in suppressing COVID-19 in Scotland, it is now safe for schools to return. Guidance, informed by the latest scientific advice, sets out the range of measures schools should take to minimise the risk of the spread of the virus.

“We know concerns still exist and I want teachers and staff to not just be safe, but to feel safe, in school and in nursery.

“While clinical advice is clear that testing those with symptoms must be the priority, we are now offering all staff who are concerned they may have been at risk of infection to have access to testing through their employer.

“I hope this additional measure will reassure teachers, nursery and support staff as we return to full-time in classroom education.”