THE benefits of being in class outweighs the “overall impact of schools on transmission rates,” Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister was speaking as a study from Public Health Scotland found that just over 0.2% of pupils tested positive for coronavirus in the first nine weeks of the school term restarting in Scotland.

The body found 1621 positive cases were linked to schoolchildren, with 1021 of those in secondary schools. More than three-quarters of schools did not have any recorded cases during the time period, it said.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said: “Out of 700,000 school pupils, 1600 cases were positive.

“That’s not no cases, and I’m not saying there’s zero risk of transmission, but it puts it into some kind of context and perspective.”

But in the Scottish Parliament, Green education spokesman Ross Greer cast doubt on the figures.

In a debate on safe schools, the MSP said: “I have to be honest with the Education Secretary and say that the description he and other ministers have given of life in our schools in recent days just does not match the reality as described by hundreds of teachers.”

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Greer added: “I can no longer totally believe the official statistics on self isolation and transmission within our schools. That’s not something that I say lightly but let me explain why based on what school staff have been telling me.

“Multiple teachers have described being prevented by senior managers from fully listing the number of their pupils considered course contacts because the school wants to keep self isolation numbers low.

“In one case the teacher who tested posted themselves, listed a whole primary class as a close contact.

“They were told they could pick no more than a third of children.”

Teachers have called for the government to consider a return to blended learning in schools in level 4 areas.

Last night MSPs backed a Scottish Green motion calling for the government to recruit “at least an additional 2000 full-time teachers to ensure that all schools can maintain safe staffing levels while managing absences due to Covid-19”.

A Scottish Government amendment highlighting the recruitment of an additional 1250 teachers and 155 support staff, with more to follow, was rejected by 58 votes to 64. MSPs also passed a Tory amendment calling on ministers to ensure “no child is left behind if required to study from home” by 64 votes to 58.

A Labour motion calling for work to be done on “investigating the possibility of resourcing improvements to ventilation in the school estate” was unanimously agreed. The Green motion, as amended by these, was passed by 64 votes to one, with 56 abstentions.

Covid-19 related absence hit its highest level earlier this month.

In 305 schools, roughly 12% of all schools, more than one pupil had tested positive in the first term back.