Schools running low on hand sanitiser ‘told to fund new supplies themselves’

Pupils coughing on each other, shortages of hand sanitiser and the need to quarantine jotters are among the issues being raised by Scottish teachers following the start of the new term.

Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the country’s largest teaching union, the EIS, said a number of “significant” concerns had been highlighted by members.

He welcomed the decision to introduce face coverings in communal areas in secondary schools from Monday, but highlighted a series of other areas where action was needed.

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He said some schools had started running low on hand sanitiser and had been told to fund new supplies themselves – despite not having any budget to do so.

Teachers have also found social distancing from each other to be “quite challenging” due to many staff rooms being too small to accommodate the 2m rule. This has led to some schools closing their staff rooms altogether, meaning that teachers effectively have nowhere else to go except their own classrooms.

He also said there was evidence that the lengthy coronavirus lockdown had left a “significant impact” on children’s learning, with some finding it difficult to settle back in to school.

There are also reports of “unacceptable behaviour” among pupils, incidents which would be treated extremely seriously if they took place outside the school gates.

“Things like coughing on fellow pupils, stuff like this,” he said.

“The concern that’s come back is that this can’t be treated just like normal misbehaviour because there are bigger implications.

“That’s popped up in quite a lot of feedback already. Schools will have to manage it, but there needs to be parental support for taking sanctions against pupils who are risking other pupils’ health by their poor behaviour.”

He said some schools may have no option but to insist that perpetrators are temporarily removed from class.

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“The school will always work towards trying to educate the child, but it might be that they would have to be schooled at home for a period,” Mr Flanagan added.

With schools becoming used to the new safety routines, he said the focus was now beginning to turn to the practical challenges posed by the virus – and coming up with solutions to them.

“If you’re going to mark jotters, you have to collect them in, quarantine them and after you’ve marked them you have to quarantine them before you can return them,” Mr Flanagan said.

“Given that, you think ‘Do you really need to mark these jotters?’ Is there a different way of giving feedback?

“Can we do what we did during the lockdown and get pupils to email work to the teacher?

“There are a lot of practical, in-class situations that people are still finding their way with.

“How does a pupil support assistant work with a child if they have to physically distance, when before they would sit beside them?

“Now we’re up and running, all of these things are starting to exercise people’s minds.”

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