Some of Scotland’s pupils are returning to class on Monday as part of a phased reopening of schools.
Children in early years education and the first three years of primary are set to go back full-time, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications.
It is the first step in a phased reopening of schools which have been closed to all but a minority of pupils since the beginning of January.
Ahead of the return, the education secretary said it is “critical” that parents follow mask-wearing and physical distancing rules at the school gates.
John Swinney said the move should not be a cause for adults to relax restrictions.
He acknowledged the Government had little “headroom” regarding the R number – the rate at which the virus grows.
He said: “I know this can be quite controversial at times but adults making sure they follow all of the physical distancing requirements at the school gate, or the mask-wearing requirements, is critical to make sure that the return of young children – who are much less susceptible to transmitting the virus – is not in some way underminded by the fact that there is essentially parental transmission.”
He continued: “We’ve all got to play a part, not just the school environment but the whole surrounding environment of society, to make sure that we do all that we can to suppress the virus.
“Because we don’t actually have an awful lot of headroom between where the R level is just now – somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9 – and 1, where obviously the virus begins to spread exponentially.”
Swinney said ministers would be monitoring data carefully when the initial cohort of pupils returns before deciding on whether others could go back to class.
Last week, the education secretary announced pilot testing programmes have been running in a small number of schools ahead of a wider rollout across the country.
He said: “As part of that, we have been working closely with the UK Government to get test kits into schools.
“This process has obviously been affected by the severe weather that we’ve experienced in recent days.
“However, I can confirm that around two-and-a-half thousand schools have now received testing kits and we expect any remaining schools will receive allocations either today or early next week.”
Swinney said testing in schools will be entirely voluntary but encouraged staff and pupils to accept them when offered.