SCOTLAND’s schools have become a key battleground during the Covid-19 pandemic – with unprecedented decisions to close classrooms, scrap exams and draw up controversial blended learning plans leading to a backlash from union leaders, local councils and parents.

But the most critical flashpoint remains what the lockdown has meant for the wellbeing of children across Scotland.

Schools are set to re-open on August 11 with pupils expected to return full-time after the blended learning plans were relegated to a “contingency” by Nicola Sturgeon.

READ MORE: Scottish councils vent 'disappointment' at schools u-turn and demand scientific evidence

The blended learning model, which would see socially distanced pupils return to classrooms part-time with the rest of their education delivered remotely at home, will now not materialise unless Scotland experiences a surge in Covid-19 over the summer.

Union leaders have warned that if schools can re-open full-time in August, “it should not be business as usual” when pupils return, adding that “schools will have to be Covid-secure to guard against local outbreaks” or a second wave of the virus.

Fears still remain over the scientific evidence that schools can re-open fully – with Cosla, the umbrella group for Scottish councils, formally expressing “disappointment that this decision was taken with no consultation with local authorities, trade unions or stakeholders”.

Council leaders have called on the Scottish Government to provide them with the evidence that it will be safe to open schools fully in August.

READ MORE: EIS boss highlights 'anger' over schools U-turn as Nicola Sturgeon says teachers could be tested

Meanwhile the EIS union general secretary, Larry Flanagan, has warned that the Scottish Government’s U-turn to drop the blended learning approach has “sparked considerable debate, anxiety, frustration, confusion and even anger amongst many members”.

Mr Flanagan has also stressed that “despite some sympathetic noises, neither the Scottish Government nor Cosla are showing anything like the ambition required to truly build true education recovery.”

Education Secretary John Swinney announced that all schools would close from March 19 and this year’s exams were to be scrapped in what Nicola Sturgeon has described as the "most difficult decision" she has made as First Minister.

Councils have also been required to look after children of key workers who needed to continue turning up for work during the crisis.

The Herald first asked Mr Swinney about whether schools could close if Covid-19 escalated on February 26 when he said the Scottish Government was working “very actively and closely with the United Kingdom Government” and that “largely the same protocols would be followed in Scotland” as in England.

The UK Government was forced to claw back plans to re-open schools south of the Border, but the Scottish Government’s first fight over schools was the decision to replace exams, cancelled for the first time in their history, with grades based on teacher estimates, prior achievements and coursework.

But Mr Swinney’s biggest battle has been over the blended learning plans, labelled by his SNP colleague, Alex Neil as “absolutely unacceptable”, days before the Scottish Government signalled a U-turn.

READ MORE: EIS union warns over support for 'severely traumatised' pupils returning to school in August

Teachers returned to school from the start of June to begin planning for how the blended learning strategy would operate but have now been sent back to the drawing board to plan for a full-time return.

Mr Flanagan has warned that teachers will need to assess the wellbeing of “young people who have been severely traumatised” by the lockdown when schools return – before they can even begin to judge academic ability.

He has now called for teachers "to be supported in reversing the damage of lockdown on our young people".

Scrapping the blended learning plans will allay some fears of the attainment gap widening between Scotland's richest and poorest children, while Ms Sturgeon has pledged she will do "everything I can" to make sure young people "don't pay a long-term price" for living through the lockdown.