A PUBLIC health expert who advises the Scottish Government has explained why Holyrood is taking a more cautious approach to reopening schools than England – and warned that Boris Johnson’s strategy carries “huge risk”.

Children in primaries one to three are due back in Scottish schools from Monday, along with some senior secondary pupils who need to do practical work for qualifications. All children under school age in early learning and childcare are also returning.

Meanwhile, in England, it is understood schools, socialising and some sports are set to return next month under the UK Government's plan to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Johnson is set to tell MPs that all pupils in all years can go back to the classroom from March 8, with outdoor after-school sports and activities allowed to restart as well.

READ MORE: Scottish parents urged to abide by coronavirus rules at school gates

Professor Devi Sridhar, chairwoman of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, was asked on Sky News which government had the right approach.

“Well I’m obviously biased because I advise the Scottish Government on their education policies,” she replied. “I would agree what we've done here [is the right approach], which is tomorrow having the younger kids go back to assess, after several weeks, what has been the impact on transmission, what have we seen in schools?”

She explained that the Scottish Government has looked to learn from Denmark, which has already introduced similar measures for reopening schools while trying to suppress the new, highly transmissible Covid-19 mutation.

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“The new variant is creating uncertainty, which means we need to go more cautiously,” Sridhar said.

She continued: “So there is a huge risk with bringing back all kids at the same time and then having to shut schools again. We're trying here to move slowly to move cautiously and get kids back, as many kids as possible, but in a slow, staged, phased way and with testing.”

The public health expert said it would be an “easy win” for England to adopt similar rules to Scotland, where children under the age of 12 are able to play outside in groups of up to 13.

“We've seen children doing sledding, tennis, football, out in parks and this gives outdoor play and also a form of physical education,” she explained. “And that is an easy win because we know transmission outside is minimal and the mental health benefits are huge.”

Under plans to reopen schools in Scotland, senior secondary pupils will need to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.

Speaking earlier to BBC Good Morning Scotland, Sridhar commented: "There will likely be cases emerging in schools over in the next few weeks but the vast majority of schools should be fine and that's what we have to keep perspective on.

"If you look at the vast majority of scientific knowledge on this, from the United States from across Europe, from East Asia, the view is really that children are not driving transmission.

"They can get infected definitely and they can infect others but they are much less likely to and so if we talk to paediatric colleagues about this they are not finding a lot of asymptomatic infections in children and they are testing quite regularly in hospitals."

Asked on the same programme what he thought of England’s more aggressive plans, Education Secretary John Swinney replied: “I certainly wouldn’t have clinical authorisation to do that.”

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He explained his biggest concern is about an increase in the spread of the virus across the country, as he urged Scots to follow public health advice.

He told Good Morning Scotland: "The biggest threat to the opening of schools is not outbreaks in schools, it is community transmission of the virus."

When asked if parents at school gates contributed to prevalence of the virus before this lockdown, Swinney said: "The whole community was driving the virus. I don't particularly want to single out particular groupings – the whole society was interacting too much, that's why we had to go into lockdown."

The Education Secretary added ministers would be monitoring data carefully when the initial cohort of pupils returns before deciding on whether others could go back to class.

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In England, socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in a fortnight when the rules are relaxed.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

The "rule of six" will return along with new measures allowing two households totalling more than six people to meet.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts are also set to reopen at the end of next month. And organised adult and children's sport – including grassroots football – can return from March 29.

However, Number 10 insisted that the "stay at home" message would remain in place south of the Border.