Education leaders have been accused of deliberately restricting post-lockdown access to schools after a national poll of parents found four in ten had not been to their child’s place of learning since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vast majority of respondents blamed the lack of visits on decisions by the school, nursery or local authority.

Council representative body Cosla has insisted that reduced disruption from Covid should boost access opportunities during the new term.

But parents’ organisation Connect, which carried out the survey between May 19 and June 2, warned the findings were concerning given that research suggests strong home-school relationships can boost attainment. It has also obtained comment revealing deep frustration among families.

READ MORE: Scottish schools 'may have to switch to three-day week'

One survey respondent said: “The school my daughter attends isn’t allowing parents to attend the sports day outside in the playground. We have never visited the school or met any of her teachers in person and now [lockdown] restrictions are eased I think this needs to change. The school are not keen on changing this policy.

“Teachers have tried hard to keep in touch but it is not the same as meeting teachers in person and children are missing out on social activities by not being allowed to any events in school.”

Another told Connect: “We are not even allowed in the playground. No leavers assembly. Parents are not allowed to attend sports day - an outdoor event so can't see why? We get letters saying the school has an open-door policy, but you then have to email on Glow to arrange an appointment. This headteacher has no intention of changing - she is quite happy to keep parents away.” A third individual added: “I drop my child off at a gated fence and pass onto nursery staff… given the whole of society has opened up, I feel this is somewhat inhumane and unjustified.”

The onset of the pandemic saw education settings closed for extended periods, with most youngsters forced to learn remotely. However, Connect’s survey, which received 339 responses from 29 local authority areas, indicates many schools and councils have been slow to increase levels of parental access since restrictions were lifted.

Forty per cent of those who took part revealed their most recent visit to a school or nursery building was before the pandemic began in March 2020. Ninety-five per cent of those who had not had access said this was due to a decision by the nursery, school or council. In addition, 33 per cent of respondents said they had received no information about visits from their child’s school or nursery.

Survey comments also show that variation in arrangements has sparked a strong reaction. One participant said: “Communication is inconsistent across the region, within clusters, and even among schools with shared staff. This is very frustrating as some are allowed to do things others aren't. It's also a disservice to our children, who all deserve a level playing field.”

READ MORE: EIS blasts 'profoundly disappointing’ teacher pay offer

Patrick McGlinchey, Connect’s executive director, said in-person parental engagement should be the norm. He added: “Schools must continue to offer families the option of digital engagement where it’s preferable for parents and carers, but it’s equally vital that parents and carers can speak with teachers and staff face-to-face and can play an active role in the school community in person.

“Welcoming schools and nurseries are essential for building positive relationships between home and schools. There is plenty of research that shows these positive relationships improve academic outcomes for children, as families and schools work together to support children's learning.”

A Cosla spokeswoman said: "Involving parents and carers in their children’s education is key to ensuring young people reach the best possible outcomes. As we start a new year without the disruption of Covid - and the associated restrictions - we will hopefully see even more opportunities to involve parents and carers in school life in person.

"However, we should also recognise that, for some families, online avenues for engagement developed during the pandemic are preferable.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said decisions on how to achieve optimal partnership working between parents, schools and nurseries were best made at local level.