UNION bosses have called for “complete transparency” by Scottish Government officials amid pleas to prove it is safe for schools to be fully re-open when lessons return next month.

Education Secretary John Swinney has been told to reassure teachers “they are not being put at risk” by publishing scientific evidence schools are safe to re-open fully and lay out what role PPE and testing will play to keep staff safe and halt any local virus outbreaks.

Teaching union leaders have called for comfort that staff testing and social distancing is in place as schools start welcoming pupils back to lessons in four weeks’ time.

EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said: “The EIS is strongly of the view that if a full pupil return is enabled in August by continued suppression of the virus, schools still need to be Covid secure, which means ensuring that mitigations are in place such as pro-active testing of staff, enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices, social distancing between adults and effective ventilation systems in place.

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“The EIS believes there should be complete transparency about the scientific evidence being used. Additionally, the Scottish Government should commit to the funding required to employ the staffing needed to support pupil recovery.”

Scottish Labour has backed concerns from Holyrood’s Education Committee that parents, pupils and teachers need to see the scientific evidence indicating that it is safe for schools to re-open on a full-time basis.

The committee of MSPs have also called on Mr Swinney to answer a series of further questions including the role PPE and testing will play in ensuring schools can re-open safely.

Scotland’s schools were forced to close in March amid the Covid-19 outbreak – with councils and teachers initially told to plan for a blended learning return to lessons, where pupils would spend part of their time in school and the rest being taught at home remotely.

But the Scottish Government changed its course and is now expecting schools to be able to fully re-open from August 11 with blended learning now a contingency plan.

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Mr Swinney will make a statement in Holyrood next week, while a review of the plans to fully re-open schools is expected to take place by July 30.

Last month, Mr Swinney told MSPs that the blended learning model was drawn up in May when “the majority view of our scientific advisers was that physical distancing would be necessary” for the return of education.

But the progress made in Scotland in suppressing Covid-19 allowed plans to be rewritten, allowing children to return to school full time, with the strategy now assuming “there is no physical distancing among young people”, Mr Swinney added.

The convener of Holyrood’s Health Committee, Clare Adamson, has written to the Education Secretary and Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s children and young people spokesperson, calling for answers to questions over funding for local authorities, staffing levels, protective gear and testing for staff and social distancing rules that will be required.

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Mr Swinney and Mr McCabe are expected to be grilled by MSPs on plans for schools to re-open in the coming weeks.

MSPs have also asked for how many newly qualified teachers and returning teachings have been offered contracts to help the return to schools next month after the Scottish Government and Cosla indicated that extra staff would be needed, although this commitment was when local authorities were planning for a blending learning strategy.

Ms Adamson has also asked Mr Swinney “what additional resources has already been made available to local authorities to support the re-opening of schools”.

Scottish Labour education spokesperson, Iain Gray, has warned that if reassurance isn’t given to parents, pupils and staff – people may not feel safe about returning to classrooms next month.

He said: “We’re now just one month away from the return of full-time face-to-face education, and the Cabinet Secretary is still skirting around the scientific safety information that should put education staff and parents at ease.

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“It’s not enough to give a brief description of scientists’ position – we need to know how and why they reached that position.

“Schools and councils had been planning for Mr Swinney’s blended learning model and phased returns, only to have the plans changed at the last minute without even being consulted.”

He added: “Nobody wants to keep children out of classrooms for any longer than is necessary, but after a global pandemic and worldwide lockdown it is understandable that school staff, pupils and their families should have every bit of information available to them so that they know they are not being put at risk.

“The time is up. The Scottish Government must present the scientific safety evidence or lose the confidence of the staff they’re ordering to the front line.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have set out clear, robust criteria for the return of schools full-time in August. It is conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to suppress the virus. It also requires that public health and testing systems are in place, risk assessments are carried out in schools and protective measures, including the use of PPE, where appropriate, are in place.

“We are committed to supporting this process and to publishing the scientific evidence and public health advice that underpins our planning.

“The regular three-weekly reviews of the coronavirus regulations include specific consideration of the evidence and data relating to transmission within schools and amongst young people. A Covid-19 advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues has been established.

"To provide clarity to staff, parents and pupils, the group agreed to provide advice that enables a decision on whether it is safe for pupils to return to schools on a full-time basis as soon as possible, and no later than July 30.”