Safety precautions for tackling the spread of Covid-19 in Scottish schools are to remain in place after the October break.
The Scottish Government have announced the continuation of mitigation measures, which include wearing face coverings in secondary school classrooms for both students and staff.
But the Scottish Conservatives claimed the announcement revealed “glaring inconsistencies” in government policy.
Secondary school staff and students, plus primary school staff, are to wear face masks in communal areas, or when moving around the buildings, following advice from the Chief Medical Officer.
This approach is being taken so that there is more time for 12-15 year olds to receive the vaccination.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In recent weeks we have seen the previous sharp decline in Covid-19 case numbers starting to level off, and that is why we have decided to adopt a cautious approach and maintain safety mitigations in school for the time-being.
“Progress with vaccinating 12-15 year olds has been remarkable and is already over 40%. However, this was only rolled out a few weeks ago and allowing further time will mean that that encouraging figure rises even higher.”
She continued: “This decision is based on advice from senior clinicians and takes account of the most recent data. We will continue to monitor case rates on a weekly basis, with a view to lifting restrictions at earliest possible time.”
Adding that she fully understand that this “will be disappointing news for some young people and their parents”, safety remains the “overriding priority”.
She said: “There is no room for complacency and we must all continue to remain vigilant to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Oliver Mundell MSP, criticised the “glaring inconsistencies” in the SNP’s approach.
He said: “This will come as a massive disappointment to pupils and parents given the SNP strongly indicated that masks in classrooms would end after the October break.
“Scotland’s schools should have been a priority for the SNP but with facemasks in classrooms remaining, young people have once again been sent to the back of the queue.
“These glaring inconsistencies will be difficult to comprehend for pupils and parents, especially with such an incredible uptake of the vaccine in 12-15 year olds.”
He added: “Pupils, parents and teachers need to see a plan from the SNP for a return to normal learning as soon as possible.”