Nicola Sturgeon is confident she can chalk up the support of parents, teaching unions and local authorities before schools in Scotland fully reopen in August.
Schools in England began allowing youngsters in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return on Monday but the process was met with criticism following a campaign by education unions and council leaders urging the government to reconsider.
Schools, colleges and nurseries closed across the UK more than nine weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.
Some reports suggest up to a million English school pupils may be kept at home by their parents over fears the transmission rate of Covid-19 remains too high for a permanent return to the classroom.
A survey of local authorities in England on Friday found more than 20 had gone against the government’s plans and told head teachers to keep schools closed this week, with some warning it was “too soon” for such a large change.
During her daily briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon was asked whether she expects a similar backlash from local authorities in Scotland as schools move towards an expected reopening date of August 11.
The first minister said it was not her “intention” for parents to be subject to penalties or any kind of enforcement if they decide to keep children at home.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m not asking children to go back to school today, I’m not asking parents to send their children back to school today, because I think it is too early and I’m very, very clear about that.
“I think it would be – in Scotland – taking a risk beyond what would be acceptable at this stage and I don’t think it would have the confidence of the vast majority of parents, either.
“These will always be difficult, sensitive issues but that’s why the way in which we’re trying to take these decisions and arrive at these judgements is so important.”
Ms Sturgeon said the approach taken by the Scottish Government, of liaising with local authorities, trade unions, parent and teaching organisations, was “the right thing to do” to ensure the confidence of parents.
She confirmed schools will not generally be open before August 11, regardless of what happens elsewhere in the UK.
“That’s not because I don’t want to see children back at school as quickly as possible,” Ms Sturgeon added.
“I want to make sure we take decisions that are safe – and that we are confident are safe – but also decisions that have the confidence of teachers, parents and young people themselves.”
Hundreds of teachers could be brought back into the profession to support schools coming out of lockdown under plans being worked on by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).
The initiative will see teachers registered in Scotland who are not currently working in the profession given the chance to return, according to The Herald.
The GTCS said 76,643 teachers are registered, with 61,439 currently working, but stressed some of those not in the job will have retired, moved abroad or started work in another setting, and the numbers are unlikely to be in the thousands.
Chief executive Ken Muir said the project was being “finalised” but encouraged qualified teachers looking to get back into the classroom to contact their local authority.