EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney does not expect schools to reopen overnight as he stressed they would only do so when it was safe for public health.

Mr Swinney was grilled by opposition MSPs at a virtual Holyrood question session - as Conservatives called on him to give clarity to parents and teachers on when and how schools could re-open as the lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted.

Tory education spokesperson, Jamie Greene, said: “The public will rightly expect clarity and detail over the government’s plans for education.

“Many will also reasonably expect that if the country eases out of lockdown, then schools could or should do the same.”

He added: "What tests or criteria will be used by the Scottish Government  to decide if, when and how schools should open again?

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“Given the negative impact on attainment that a lengthy closure  could have, is it possible that schools might even in part, be re-opened during the summer - with all the benefits that would bring to parents and pupils.”

Mr Swinney refused to be drawn into specifics, but recognised “the difficulty caused by the prolonged closure if schools”.

He added: “I don’t want schools to be closed for a minute longer  than is required.”

The Education Secretary said that “all of the practical issues” about reopening schools with social distancing measures were being explored.

He said: “I don’t envisage schools quite simply being able to go from being closed  today to being open in a couple of days' time.

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“We will be living with social distancing for quite some considerable period of time. The principle of social distancing would have to be applied to our educational settings.

“I want to make sure that we open schools as early as we possibly can do, that we do that consistent with scientific advice and that we must always be taking action which is in the interests of preserving public health and public safety, as we take those decisions.”