Pupils must not miss out on a week of school because of what their parents do for a living, Douglas Ross has said.
The Scottish Conservatives leader claimed allowing the children of key workers to return to class as of January 5 – while others must wait a further week until blended learning begins – risked widening the attainment gap.
Under government plans announced on Saturday all pupils will not return to school on a full-time basis until January 18.
Ross said: “We wish schools were able to open safely but until we know more about this new strain of the virus, the government must guarantee that every single pupil will have all the tools and opportunities they need to keep learning at home.
“On the later return date for thousands of people, I urge the Scottish Government to rethink and show more ambition to keep pupils learning as much as possible. Teachers have been told they will be back in school, yet for pupils there are different start dates for many.
“Every pupil should be returning to some form of learning from 5 January. Nobody should be treated differently and miss out on school because of their background or what their parents do.
“As it stands, children of parents who are out of work or not designated as key workers are likely to fall behind through no fault of their own. The attainment gap between rich and poorer pupils will grow even wider.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “No one wants the restrictions we have put in place for a moment longer than needed to prevent the spread of the virus.
“For the children of key workers schools will open as previously scheduled. They will also open as normal for the most vulnerable children, and school staff are expected to return to work as scheduled and as planned.
“For the majority of pupils the holiday period is being extended until January 11. Online learning will take place until at least January 18.
“After that, assuming we are confident we have the virus under control we will aim to reopen schools fully. While we hoped the school term would recommence as previously planned, the safety of pupils, teachers and staff is paramount.
“The experience of lockdown shows that access to technology and digital capability is, and will remain, a fundamental aspect of education in Scotland.”