Pupils across Scotland have been told to learn at home as Covid-linked staff absences bring disruption to classrooms at the start of the new term.

However, education leaders suggested fresh changes to self-isolation rules could help to alleviate pressures amid concern over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. They also stressed schools were ready to introduce digital teaching swiftly should it be required.

Children and young people in 11 local authority areas returned to classrooms yesterday following the Christmas break. Peers in the rest of the country are due to go back over the coming days.

However, some pupils have already been prevented from entering school premises for short periods because staff are self-isolating. And, although most establishments that were scheduled to reopen yesterday did so, concerns are likely to persist over Omicron’s impact in January, particularly given reports that supply teacher lists have reduced dramatically since this time last year.

READ MORE: Schools crisis fears over teacher absences and lack of supply

East Lothian Council bosses confirmed staff availability issues meant ten classes – mostly in primary schools – were learning remotely.

A spokeswoman said: “The majority of our schools have returned to in-person teaching today. However, due to the impacts of teaching staff selfisolating, a number of pupils are temporarily learning at home.

“All of our schools have contingency plans in place so they can make the move to remote learning quickly and are grateful for the support of their families.”

Covid also brought disruption to classrooms in the Falkirk Council area, with P2 pupils at Bankier Primary and P5s at Dunipace Primary given remote lessons.

Similarly, S4-6 pupils at Westhill Academy in Aberdeenshire have been asked to stay at home today and access work through online platforms. It comes after children at Kincardine O’Neil School, Aberdeenshire, were yesterday taught via Google Classroom due to staff having to self-isolate.

HeraldScotland: The First Minister announced updated self-isolation rules on Wednesday.The First Minister announced updated self-isolation rules on Wednesday.

In Clackmannanshire, youngsters at Muckhart Primary were also learning remotely. Education leaders said they expected this to continue today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, West Dunbartonshire Council said 26 teachers either had Covid or were displaying its symptoms. A further 23 were self-isolating after being identified as close contacts. Council bosses stressed that absences were covered within the affected schools.

Early indications of disruption came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled changes to self-isolation rules that should help ease some of the pressure on staffing levels. From today, those who test positive for Covid will be advised they can end self-isolation if they do not have a fever and obtain a negative lateral flow (LFD) result on Day 6 and again at least 24 hours later.

Triple-vaccinated close contacts of those who test positive, both household and non-household, or those under the age of 18 and four months, do not need to isolate as long as they return a negative LFD test result each day for seven consecutive days, and remain fever free. However, close contacts who are not triple-vaccinated will still have to self-isolate for the 10 days and take a PCR test.

READ MORE: 'Almost inevitable' Omicron cases will rise as schools go back

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the changes struck “an appropriate balance” between breaking chains of transmission and reducing the impact of self-isolation on critical services such as education. She added: “I don’t want to see any further disruption to children’s education because of the impact on attainment... That’s why we are determined to keep schools open.”

The First Minister also highlighted updated safety guidance for schools that was released last month.

Education leaders in Glasgow said there were no Covid-related school closures yesterday. A council spokeswoman added: “With the high numbers of positive cases in communities across the city there is no doubt that many of our schools will be affected in some way, with both pupils and staff self-isolating or who have the virus, but we have not had to close any of our schools.

“The changes to the self-isolation and household contact rules announced today by the Scottish Government will have an impact on numbers over the next few weeks."