The full reopening of schools has been delayed again until at least mid-February, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
Lockdown restrictions were extended for at least another month, with a further update expected on February 2.
Ms Sturgeon will also outline a range of measures, including phased returns, which could see pupils return to school sooner.
Parents were hoping to hear whether children would be able to return to school from February 1, however only key workers’ children and vulnerable young people will be able to attend as normal until at least mid-February.
She told MSPs: “Our reluctant judgement at this stage is that community transmission is too high, and is likely to remain so for the next period, to allow a safe return to school on February 1.
“The cabinet therefore decided today that except for vulnerable and key worker children, school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February.
“We will review the situation again on February 2 and I hope we can set out then a firmer timetable for getting children back to school.”
Phased returns considered
Ms Sturgeon continued: “I can say this today. If it is at all possible, as I hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to school learning in mid-February we will do that.
“But I have to be straight with families and say it is too early to be sure about whether and to what extent this would be possible.
“However I will update parliament again as soon as we have completed the review, taking advice from clinical advisers, from February 2.”
Pushed further by opposition MSPs on the necessary steps needed to get pupils back to school as quickly and safely as possible, Ms Sturgeon also said the main aim was to suppress community transmission.
This could mean some pupils are able to return to the classroom quicker than others, however, she stressed final decisions were yet to be made.
Considerations could include primary school pupils going back to school before those in secondary school or children in areas of Scotland where there is low transmission of the virus returning to school first.
Ms Sturgeon explained: “If it is possible – and I’m simply saying this by way of illustration not as an indication that this is a definite decision – but if it is possible to have for example younger children back before older children or parts of the country where transmission is lower back earlier than parts of the country where it remains higher, we will look at all of that.
“We want to get as many children as possible back in school learning as quickly as we possibly can but that must be safe, safe for children and for those who work in schools as well.”
Blended learning was also discussed as an acceptable step by teaching union leaders last week at the Scottish Government’s education and skills committee meeting.
The Scottish Government is also planning more widespread testing in schools, Ms Sturgeon confirmed.
The testing scheme, which will be piloted in schools, could see both pupils and staff tested in an effort to keep schools safe.