Nicola Sturgeon has announced extra cash for the recruitment of teachers and to help schools reopen after she confirmed pupils will return to classes full-time next month.
The First Minister revealed the additional funding as the EIS teaching union said both teachers and parents will be “understandably nervous about a return to the classroom”.
Ms Sturgeon insisted a return to full-time education is now possible because of the low prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland.
An additional £30 million has been announced to help recruit more school staff, taking the total to £75 million – which should enable 1,400 extra teachers to be taken on.
Ms Sturgeon also said there will be a further £30 million – on top of the £20 million already pledged – to support “practical measures” such as extra cleaning and school transport.
The reopening of schools comes after the Scottish Government’s previous plans for blended learning – with pupils learning at home for part of the school week – were met with an angry reaction from parents and opposition politicians.
The First Minister said: “I must be clear at this stage that no-one can rule out the possible need for blended learning arrangements in future – either nationally or locally – if there is a significant increase in Covid.
“But the current low prevalence of the virus – together with the safety measures we are putting in place – give us as good a basis as we could have hoped for to get children back to school.”
Schools across the country closed on March 20 as Covid-19 hit Scotland but they will now reopen from August 11.
The lengthy break from classroom learning means some councils could implement a phased return but Ms Sturgeon said all pupils should be back in classes full time by August 18 “at the latest”.
Councillor Gail Macgregor, resources spokeswoman for the local government body Cosla, said: “We welcome the additional funding that has been provided by the Scottish Government and this will allow local authorities to move forward on preparations for a full return to school in August.”
But EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said more could be done to reassure parents and staff who are nervous about returning to school – suggesting smaller classes could become the “norm”.
He said: “Even with full implementation of the guidelines and its mitigations, many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom.
“The EIS believes more could be done to reassure school communities around safety if smaller classes were introduced as the norm, employing the many unemployed teachers currently seeking work.
“The additional funding announced is welcome, therefore, but this needs to translate into smaller class grouping to support physical distancing amongst pupils.”
Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw welcomed the announcement of the reopening of schools but “it shouldn’t have taken so much pressure from parents and opposition parties to make reopening in mid-August Scotland’s plan A”.
With the Scottish Government planning enhanced surveillance testing in schools, Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said it is “concerning” this will not be ready for the start of the new term.
He said: “The return of football is underpinned by weekly testing and the return of schools should have the same reassurances in place.
“It’s unacceptable that a footballer playing in front of an empty stadium should feel safer than a teacher going into a packed classroom.”