Scotland's schools are set to begin re-opening on a phased basis from February 22.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced it is the Scottish Government's intention that younger children will return full-time to classrooms as long as there is continued progress in suppressing Covid.

This includes early learning and childcare for those below school age, as well as P1-P3 pupils.

Senior school pupils will be allowed to return on a part-time basis to complete coursework that is necessary for national qualifications. 

The First Minister announced the planned changes in a statement to MSPs on Tuesday afternoon. They will be confirmed in two weeks' time.

Most pupils in Scotland are currently taking part in online learning, with only those deemed vulnerable and the children of key workers attending school.

It is also intended there will be a significant expansion of testing in educational settings to support the return to nurseries and schools in the weeks ahead. 

Those who work in schools, and in early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, will be offered at-home testing twice a week. All senior phase secondary school students will be offered this too. 

The testing offer will be in place for schools as soon as possible to support their return, and ministers plan to extend it to the wider childcare sector in the weeks after that. 

Ms Sturgeon said: "We are determined to get our children back to normal schooling just as quickly as it is safe to do so. It is our overriding priority. 

"For now, let me again thank young people and their families, as well as teachers, and school and nursery staff, for the patience and understanding you are showing during these incredibly stressful times." 

It comes after the EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union, warned against reopening prematurely, saying this would just drive the Covid R-number back up.

General Secretary Larry Flanagan has also stressed that blended learning may be necessary to keep classrooms safe in the event of pupils .

He said previously: “The significant new factor is the increased transmissibility of the new Covid variant which seems to apply as equally to children as to adults.

HeraldScotland: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updated MSPs on Tuesday afternoon.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon updated MSPs on Tuesday afternoon.

"The absence of physical distancing amongst pupils was predicated previously on advice that children played a lesser role in transmission – that would appear to no longer be the case and therefore distancing may be required when pupils return, which would mean the introduction of blended learning.

"Reducing the numbers in schools may be critical to their safe operation – for example halving the number of pupils and staff in a classroom doubles the efficacy of the ventilation arrangements, significantly lowering the risk of in class transmission.”

When it was suggested last month that schools could begin reopening on a phased basis, union leaders also stressed the importance of having extra teachers in place to help pupils faced with learning at home for longer.