ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s top health advisers has said that schools should "re-open as normally as possible" when they return on August 11. 

The First Minister has now suggested that schools may be able to re-open with “nearer normality” in August, but it is dependent on successful efforts to suppress the Covid-10 outbreak continuing. 

Opposition parties and parents have criticised the Scottish Government’s plans for schools to return in a blended learning model – with young people spending up to half of their time physically in school and the rest at home with remote teaching. 

Now public health expert Devi Sridhar tweeted that her "personal view" is that if cases of coronavirus are low enough, schools should attempt to re-open normally – putting more pressure on Ms Sturgeon for a re-think over the blended learning approach. 

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The Edinburgh University professor, who is part of the Scottish Government's Covid-19 expert scientific advisory group, said: "If Covid-19 numbers can be brought low enough in Scotland by 11 August (under 20 confirmed cases) & with appropriate 'test and protect' policies, my personal view is that schools should re-open as normally as possible (kids back full-time & able to play/interact together)." 

The First Minister has previously insisted ministers would be guided by the scientific evidence and would "not compromise on safety". 

Ms Sturgeon responded by tweeting: "Right now (like other UK nations), we must plan for a school model based on physical distancing. 

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"But as @devisridhar says, *if* we can suppress virus sufficiently & have other measures in place, nearer normality may be possible. It's why we must stick with plan to suppress." 

The First Minister continued: "We'll be guided by evidence & won't compromise safety (we still don't know everything about this virus). And we'll work with parents, young people & teachers to build confidence. All countries grappling with these tough issues - @scotgov determined to do right for children." 

Professor Sridhar later clarified her remarks, stressing that the First Minister and her are "completely aligned", adding that she supports the "cautious approach to easing lockdown and re-opening schools".

She added: "She has kids (& teachers, parents) best interest in mind so better to go slowly, track virus closely & make decisions in a reasoned & data-driven way."

On Sunday, Education Secretary John Swinney had warned it was "unlikely" that education would return to normal in the next academic year - prompting dismay from parents. 

He said that was because "we'll have to maintain the social distancing approaches for some considerable time to come". 

Plans being drawn up by councils could see some youngsters spend as little as one day a week in class, it has been reported. 

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However, on Monday, Ms Sturgeon dismissed his suggestion that the blended learning system - where youngsters spend part of the week in class but continue learning at home - could last for the whole of the 2020-21 school year. 

"It is absolutely not the case that we are planning for blended learning, with children learning at home for part of the school week, to last a year, or anything like it," she insisted.