PLANS for reopening schools in Scotland appear more “thought through” than in England and better reflect the concerns of teachers, an expert has said.

While pupils in Scotland will not be back in the classroom until after summer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined a phased reopening of primaries from June 1.

However this has been thrown into chaos amid safety concerns and the practicalities of physical distancing, and many councils south of the Border have said they will not be able to guarantee opening next week.

Following pressure, on Friday the UK Government published the scientific evidence on opening schools prepared for its Sage committee, but unions warned it was inconclusive and would only add to teachers’ uncertainty and anxiety.

Dr Lucy Wenham, lecturer of education at the University of Bristol, said the Scottish plans for reopening of schools “certainly appear more thought through”.

“Having the later start date has to be more promising for health risks, for protecting health in the community, for wellbeing of teachers and for long-term educational progress.

“The thing in England which seems to be a bit mad is they’re saying ‘let’s go back now’, when we’re not really sure what the infection rate is or what the real dangers are.

“So you have a kind of start, then everyone goes away and then you have to do something else again – it’s going to take a huge amount of planning for a school.”

In the plans outlined for reopening schools in Scotland, the Scottish Government acknowledged that school closures are having a “negative effect on many aspects of children’s progress and development, including their wellbeing”.

But it says returning children and young people to education as soon as it is safe to do so can only be undertaken with “careful planning and clear communication ... to build confidence and assurance that the health and scientific advice justifies such a position”.

An education recovery group has been set up to discuss the issue, which is chaired by deputy first minister and Education Secretary John Swinney and involves representatives of teachers, parents and unions.

The reaction from unions in England to the publication of the Sage evidence suggests a widening gap between the view of teachers and ministers.

The National Education Union suggested Johnson was taking a “cavalier attitude” towards children.

Joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to tell the Commons we will have a ‘world-beating’ track and trace system within 12 days, and expect the whole country – and school leaders – to take a leap of faith with him.

“The Government has made many mis-steps since this crisis began and the Department for Education was slow to bring all education unions on board.”

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of union NASUWT, said: “The evidence presented by Sage in terms of justifying the decision by Government to start to reopen schools from June 1 is inconclusive.

“The Sage papers will only add to teachers’ uncertainty and anxiety.”

Wenham said it appeared as if the Scottish plans did reflect the types of concerns the educational professions would have.

“The Scottish plans do seem to echo some of the sort of concerns teachers would genuinely have, about how to effectively do blended learning, giving people enough time to set things up, getting laptops out to disadvantaged students and worrying about transition groups,” she said.

“We don’t know what is going on with test, trace and isolate. But the Scottish plan allows at least for those things to get up and running before it starts.

“The English plan doesn’t allow for that to be in place. It’s not going to be in place by next week.”

And she pointed out a key issue would be if parents had confidence to send their children back.

“I think a lot of our head teachers are sceptical as to which children will be sent back,” she said. “You can open the doors – that doesn’t mean that they’re going to come.

“We’re either waiting for them [UK ministers] to make a U-turn or we are waiting for them to say there won’t be social distancing. I don’t think a lot of parents would accept that.”

She added: “Something that will obviously build confidence is having enough time to know what you’re planning for in advance. The Scottish plan allows that time.”

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the papers published by Sage showed that the phased return of pupils to classrooms has been a “carefully considered decision based on the best scientific and medical advice”.