NICOLA Sturgeon has admitted that children will likely need support past the end of this school year in order to help them catch up on missed lessons.

The warning comes after a Reform Scotland think tank said that pupils will need an extra eight hours of tuition a week by extending the school day for the next two years to make up for lessons lost during the crisis.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, a member of the Commission on School Reform, suggested eight extra hours of tuition per week for two years, or five hours per week over three years.

This would be completed by extra hours lessons in the later afternoons, he said, while also calling for additional funding.

He added: "Many children will have actually gone backwards because such interruptions can lead to them forgetting what they have learnt before."

The First Minister was asked about the proposal at her daily coronavirus briefing and stressed that the Scottish Government is “not ruling out anything”.

She added: “I do think it is not unreasonable, perhaps perfectly reasonable, to say that children who have missed the best part of a year of normal school education are going to need support beyond the end of this school year – the summer holidays.

“We don’t yet know exactly how quickly we will be able to get all young people back into normal face-to-face learning in schools. I think this is a long-term thing to help catch up from what has been a very disrupted year.

“All things have to be on the table to be considered as we think about how best to do that in different phases and taking account the different needs of young people.”

Ms Sturgeon warned there needed to be a “careful balance” between educational and other potential harms when decisions are made around the issue.

She said: “We will look at all proposals and we will try to make sure that on an ongoing basis, we have the right provision for children to catch up and for us to take account for the impact on children overall.

“The educational impact is of huge concern to everybody but so too is the impact on mental health and wellbeing.

“We’ve got to be careful that as we try to deal with the educational impact, we don’t inadvertently pile more mental health pressure on young people.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “This going to be an issue that is going to be an issue for some time to come. I wouldn’t under-estimate the importance of getting that balance right.

“Young people have been through a pretty traumatic experience over the past year. The impact on education is hugely important but so too is the stress that will have come from the fact that family life is very different.”