A PHASED return to school for pupils throughout West Dunbartonshire will begin from next week, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The First Minister previously revealed the Scottish Government's back-to-school plan, which includes a phased return from February 22.

Speaking to an audience at Holyrood today, February 16, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that from next week there will be a 'phased and gradual return to school' across all Scotland's local authorities, however easing of other restrictions were not confirmed.

The First Minister said: "I announced two weeks ago our preliminary decision that pre-school children, pupils in primaries 1, 2 and 3, and a limited number of senior phase students who need access to school for essential practical work, would return from Monday, February 22.

"I also said that, from the same date, we would seek to enable a limited increase in the provision for vulnerable children - specifically those with the most significant additional support needs - where schools believe this is essential.

""I'm pleased to confirm today that, in line with the advice of our expert group, this first phase of the re-opening of schools will go ahead as planned on Monday.

"We will need to monitor the impact of this change very carefully before taking any further decisions.

"However, I hope we will be able to set out the second phase of school re-opening in two weeks’ time.

"I want to be clear, though, that the need to properly assess the impact of this limited re-opening means we think it unlikely, at this stage, that there will be any further return to school before 15th March."

Returning to “100 per cent normality” will likely not be possible in the near future in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon also said.

The First Minister told MSPs that some restrictions may have to remain in place, and “trade offs” will have to be made to ease some restrictions, such as the return of schools.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I know this is difficult given how desperate we all are to get back to something close to normal, but if we open up too quickly to meet arbitrary dates, we risk setting progress back.

“Indeed, because of the new, more infectious variant, our exit from lockdown is likely to be even more cautious than it was last summer.

“And secondly, probably for a while yet, 100% normality is unlikely to be possible.

“So in a world where we can’t do everything immediately, we will need to decide what matters most.”

It was also confirmed that there were 49 further deaths of coronavirus patients, and 773 new cases in the past 24 hours. 1,288,004 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Scotland, 28 per cent of the adult population.