PUPILS will not have to physically distance when East Renfrewshire’s schools return next month but teachers will, new advice suggests.

A report from the Scottish Government’s scientific advisors states that “no distancing” should be needed between pupils in primary or secondary schools.

But it said staff should stay two metres apart from each other and put on a face covering whenever they come into “closer contact” with children.

It is also recommended that “higher risk” group activities, such as assemblies and gym classes, should not be reintroduced immediately.

The report states: “We conclude that, subject to continued suppression of the virus and to surveillance and mitigations being in place, the balance of the evidence suggests that no distancing should be required between children in primary schools.

“The evidence is less clear for secondary schools but at present we would support the same approach being taken in secondary schools on the basis of the balance of known risks and the effectiveness of mitigation.”

It noted that only a very small percentage of coronavirus cases involved those aged under 15 and that the role of children in transmission appears to be limited.

Teachers would only need to wear a face covering if they are face-to-face with pupils for more than 15 minutes and cannot remain two metres away, although any child or teacher wanting to wear one should be able to do so.

Advice on school transport strongly recommends pupils travel to lessons on foot or by bike or scooter where possible.

Dedicated school transport, such as a school bus, would be considered an “extension of the school estate,” where distancing measures are not required.

If pupils use public transport, the government’s guidance on physical distancing must be followed and face coverings remain mandatory for everyone aged over five.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the latest advice from scientific advisors would “inform the way schools can reopen safely.”

He added: “We are considering this advice as we develop comprehensive guidance which will give confidence to our school communities that the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff is ensured as we welcome them back.

“Ensuring the highest quality education for our young people, in a safe environment, must be a priority for us all and I know that everyone is committed to make sure that children’s education is not adversely affected in the longer term.”

Commenting on the latest advice, a spokesperson for East Renfrewshire Council told the Barrhead News: “We will continue to monitor guidance from the Scottish Government, ensuring that our staff and pupils are kept safe.”