NICOLA Sturgeon has been warned by a member of her own education recovery group over the "potential for confusion and increased levels of stress" if schools are forced to close or revert to home schooling at short notice, after the roll-out of a tiered strategy south of the border.

The First Minister has been told she must be prepared to set out plans to close schools if necessary – ahead of Scotland's version of a three-tiered virus strategy being drawn up this week.

The warning comes as Ms Sturgeon said she is considering "triggers" in her tiered strategy for when schools may need to close, while "more stricter travel restrictions" are also being thought over by officials.

The First Minister refused to rule out a "firebreak" lockdown being introduced after the Welsh Government announced all people will be told to "stay at home" for two weeks in an "effective lockdown".

Wales has an estimated infection rate - R number - higher than Scotland.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: All options open as Wales locks down

The EIS teaching union had earlier called for triggers to be introduced to allow teachers to plan for any closures or blended learning to be rolled out – a proposal Ms Sturgeon said was under consideration by the Scottish Government.

The First Minister will publish her tiered system by the end of the week before the strategy is scrutinsed by MSPs next week.

The strategy will be similar to that rolled out by Boris Johnson in England, but no tiers south of the border require schools or universities to close their doors.

The Scottish version could see officials "toughen up" the UK Government system or even add another higher level with stricter restrictions when it comes into force next week.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Tougher tier could be added to traffic light system

General secretary of School Leaders Scotland, Jim Thewliss, who sits on the Scottish Government's education recovery group, has warned about the "potential for confusion and increased levels of stress" caused by "lack of transparency and poor communication" of the strategy after discussions with colleagues south of the border.

He added: "The Scottish Government has, through the Education Recovery Group, sought throughout this crisis to engage pro actively with key partners in Scottish Education in creating and sustaining an open and collegiate dialogue on all key issues.

"Given what is liable to be suggested in a tired system, it is crucial that to ensure that school leaders, teachers, pupils and their parents are given as much notice of what changes to school provision can be anticipated and that as much time as possible can be made available to plan for alternative learning strategies.

"It is absolutely critical that if young people are to continue their learning outwith the school building, for however long or short a time that might be for, that we take account of that experience in ensuring equity of learning provision."

An education official at a Scottish council has stressed the importance of schools being given "as much time and resources to plan for whatever is needed” but warned against blanket “knee jerk” closures or blended learning without evidence it will help stop the virus.

The EIS union has stressed that failing to learn lessons from mistakes encountered during the first lockdown will be “inexcusable”.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan, said: “It is clear that school closures, either locally or nationally, need to be considered as part of measures to control the growth in the R figure and to deal with local outbreaks, where they occur.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Teachers warns schools must close if needed

“As a country we should be open and transparent as to the type of indicators which would trigger such a move so that pupils, parents and teachers can be as prepared as possible for such an occurrence; a few days’ notice, for example, would be woefully insufficient.

“We also need to be confident that schools are able to switch effectively to remote teaching or to blended learning, so that we don’t see a repeat of the ‘digital divide’ which was evident in the last lockdown, with pupils from the poorest backgrounds being disproportionally disadvantaged."

He added: “Everyone understands the importance of schools being open but as is now evident from decisions and discussion elsewhere, if they need to close, even temporarily, in order to control the virus, that is a decision we need to be prepared to make.”

The First Minister suggested that her tiered coronavirus strategy could involve triggers that would require schools to put blended learning plans into action – but insisted she will "strive to keep schools open".

She added: "Within all the tiers we will continue to take judgements on whether that is possible or not.

"We've always said that we cannot rule out, in parts of Scotland or Scotland overall, at any stage, reverting to blended learning for a period but we want to avoid that if possible."

She added: "If we do see a continuing acceleration of the spread of the virus and if we have a tiered approach, the further up the tiered approach you go, then considerations about what that means for schools will be ongoing.

"We will look at metrics, we will look at triggers, but there always has to be a public health informed judgement applied to these things – that will be true in any decisions we make about schools as well."

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, Jamie Greene has warned that "schools shouldn't be an easy target for the SNP to close."

He added: "Another attempt to introduce part-time learning as the plan A for our young people will ring serious alarm bells for parents and teachers.

"Getting schools back after the summer was absolutely the best result for pupils, all avenues must be explored before schools close.

"Virtual learning simply wasn't working for so many, especially when the much-vaunted laptops took so long to appear and in many cases not at all."

Lib Dems education spokesperson, Beatrice Wishart said that communication over potential school closures "has been sadly lacking" adding "we need certainty about what happens at each level of the virus instead of overnight surprises".