MORE pupils return to classrooms across Scotland today as the latest phase of lockdown easing sets in.

Children in primaries 4-7 are due to join their younger classmates who were the first to go back to school on February 22.

Senior secondary school pupils required to attend for practical work for qualifications were able to return from the same date.

Primary pupils using hand sanitiserP1-P3 pupils returned on February 22

Now, all high school students can head back to the classroom part-time, as part of a blended learning model meaning they will continue to do some learning at home until after the Easter break.

Secondary school pupils are required to observe two-metre social distancing in school and on school transport as well as wearing face coverings.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the plans in a speech to MSPs on March 2 and has repeatedly stressed that having pupils return to school is her lockdown easing priority.

READ MORE: Scottish dental schools not accepting new students in 2021

She previously defended the partial return for secondary school pupils, despite being told some youngsters could spend less than two hours a week in the classroom.

The First Minister told MSPs on Wednesday: “We decided to try, even if it was limited, in the period between now and Easter to get young people back into school for some periods and to reacquaint them ahead of the Easter holidays.

“We are trying to get back to the provision of full-time education as quickly as is possible, and to recognise the need to introduce, even if it is partial, and even if it is phased, and even if it is limited, greater degrees of normality for young people from now onwards.”

However, the decision came under fire from a senior teaching union figure on Sunday.

School pupilsPupils need to observe two-metre social distancing in school and wear face coverings

Assistant secretary of the EIS teaching union Andrea Bradley claimed the decision was “politically motivated” as the Scottish Government needed a “good news story” amid the Alex Salmond saga.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the Government’s “sole motivation” was ensuring pupils’ wellbeing.

However, Ms Bradley told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “The decision seemed to be a political one rather than one that was based on sound educational principle.

READ MORE: Scottish Government releases latest Covid-19 case numbers

“Certainly it wasn’t one that has taken account of the very real circumstances in which teachers are working – under quite significant stress and pressure over the last six months.”

She said teachers are “really struggling” with the workload.

She added: “We have to have cognisance of the context in which the decision was announced, it took place before the parliamentary evidence-giving session.

“Our sense was the Government were looking for a good news story that week.”

The day after making the announcement, the First Minister gave evidence at the Holyrood committee examining the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment claims against her predecessor.

HeraldScotland:

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “It is startling to hear a senior teaching union official effectively accuse Nicola Sturgeon of using Scotland’s school pupils for political distraction.

“The suggestion appears to be that the First Minister announced an earlier return to the classroom not for legitimate reasons but to draw attention away from her evidence to the Salmond inquiry.

“For that to be alleged is extraordinary and speaks to the erosion in trust in this SNP administration.”

READ MORE: Swinney: ‘Every possibility’ of blended learning amid claims teachers are 'canaries in the mine shaft'

Mr Swinney told the same programme: “We were concerned about wellbeing of S1 to S3 pupils, who might feel excluded from the return to school if we didn’t give them some opportunity for face-to-face learning before the Easter holidays.

“That was the one and only motivation that the Government had.”

He added: “I’ve listened to young people directly myself who are concerned about the effects on their own wellbeing of the loss of social interaction with their peers and with their teachers, so that’s why all secondary pupils are returning for some elements of education and face-to-face learning in the forthcoming few weeks.”