John Swinney has defended the decision to keep schools open in areas which are being moved to the toughest level of lockdown restrictions.
The deputy first minister said it was “absolutely central” to the wellbeing of children and young people.
It comes as more than
two million people are to be placed in level four of Covid restrictions from Friday.
Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants will be forced to close in 11 areas across central Scotland.
Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the EIS, has called for blended or part-time learning to be introduced to reduce levels of infection.
But Mr Swinney insisted public healthcare evidence showed schools were “not contributing significantly” to increased cases.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The number of positive cases amongst pupils represents 0.1% of all pupils.
“So that’s why I say the schools are not a significant area of transmission.
“The level for teachers is no different to any other workforce in that category – varying between about 4% to 7%.”
Covid-19 in schools
- The number of pupils not in school for Covid-related reasons has been rising steadily since the half-term break, reaching 30,028 on 11 November
- The vast majority of these pupils are self-isolating, rather than sick with Covid. On 10 November, only 758 were away because they were ill
- The number of pupils off because their parents kept them at home “contrary to public health guidance” is also rising slowly, reaching 2,811 on 10 November
- Overall, Covid-related absences tend to be higher in secondary schools
- The most recent data shows that pupils in S5 and S6 are most likely to be off for Covid-related reasons
The EIS has asked its members in Scotland if they would consider strike action over Covid school safety concerns.
The union is surveying members on the prospect of industrial action as Covid-related absences hit a new high.
Provisional figures published by the Scottish government show that Covid-related pupil absence levels were at 4.4% on 13 November, with 25,685 pupils away from school.
However, there were 30,028 pupils not in school on 11 November for Covid-related reasons – the highest this figure has been since term started in August.
Schools in England – where similar lockdown restrictions are already in place – are continuing as normal.
Mr Swinney said steps had been taken in schools to strengthen the physical distancing and face covering arrangements.
“This is at the heart of our advice that we avoid transmission between adults and pupils – and adults and adults – in our schools.
“We have robust arrangements in place to make sure that is the case but we constantly monitor those to make sure that all of the appropriate measures have been taking place.”
Meanwhile, more than 400 pupils at a school in Fife are self-isolating after a number of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The head teacher of Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes confirmed 10 pupils and six staff have tested positive for the virus and that school attendance is down to 50%.
In an online video, head teacher Alan Pithie said it was challenging time but that no new cases had been confirmed so far this week.