EDUCATION chiefs face a race against time to get local schools ready to reopen with major barriers still to overcome.

Schools are finally due to start back next month after being closed since March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The plan is for pupils to go back full-time but council leader Stephen McCabe says it is clear that there will be no going back to 'normal'.

He has today suggested that a part-time, or 'phased', return may be unavoidable.

Mr McCabe has highlighted school transport as one headache, among others, should all pupils be immediately sent back to the classroom next month in the way that has been planned.

Safety fears have also been cited by teaching unions.

In his influential role as education spokesman with local government association Cosla, Councillor McCabe is working with education secretary John Swinney and the unions on the national guidelines to get pupils back into class.

But everything depends on the government giving the final green light on July 30.

If the go-ahead is given it means schools will have less than a fortnight to get things ready.

Mr McCabe said: "There will be no going back to school as normal.

"School will be different, there will need to be measures in place to ensure the safety of staff and pupils.

"We will have to wait and see what happens on July 30, we don't know yet how the infection rate of the virus will be then.

"But that doesn't leave us with a lot of time to get everything in place, with 11 days until teachers come back."

Mr McCabe believes the tight timescale means a phased, part-time return cannot be taken off the table and pupil welfare must be paramount.

He said: "I think we will look at some options - which could include a phased return and then starting full time on Monday August 17.

"No decisions have been made as yet.

"It will take time to settle pupils back in and make them feel safe and comfortable again.

"We will be looking after their wellbeing before just carrying on with the national curriculum and full-on learning."