Just one in five teachers think Scottish schools are safe to reopen, says union

Interim results from a survey by Scotland’s largest teaching union indicate a lack of confidence in schools returning.

Juniper Green Primary School, used as one of the hub schools for key workers, provides an example of what school could have been like for pupils returning in August.
Juniper Green Primary School, used as one of the hub schools for key workers, provides an example of what school could have been like for pupils returning in August.

Teachers are backing the return of schools in Scotland but only one in five believe schools are safe for teachers and pupils to return, the interim results from a survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland have indicated.

A total of 64 per cent of teachers support the decision to re-open schools, but just three per cent are “very confident” in the evidence to support a safe return to school, the EIS said.

Scotland's largest teaching union opened their survey earlier this week with 24,000 completing the survey by Thursday morning. Full results will be released next week.

Nearly two-thirds of teachers feel either ‘somewhat unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’ about returning to school, with 58 per cent expressing a “lack of confidence” in the ability of the government’s Test and Protect scheme to cope with potential demand.

A quarter believe there to have been sufficient operational changes such as introducing social distancing or enhanced hygiene measures, with just 18 per cent agreeing that schools are safe.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the survey highlighted that the Scottish Government still has “serious questions” to answer about the reopening of schools next week.

He said:“The interim results of this survey highlight that Scotland’s teachers continue to have serious questions over the re-opening of schools next week. The fact that more than 24,000 teachers completed the survey in a little over a day illustrates the high degree of concern that remains over COVID-19 and schools.

"Teachers want to see schools re-opening, so that they can get back to working with pupils in the classroom environment – but they are very clear that this has to be done safely.”

“The initial indications from this major survey confirm that teachers believe that much more still needs to be done to ensure their safety, and the safety of pupils and others within the school, can be properly protected as schools re-open.

"The EIS will be sharing both the initial and final results of this survey with the Scottish Government and local authorities, and will be seeking urgent discussions on the mitigations that teachers still want to see – such as sufficient social distancing, testing for asymptomatic staff, and the use of face coverings where required to ensure safety.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We agree that the health and wellbeing of pupils, students and staff should be the top priority when it comes to re-opening schools and colleges.

“The guidance on preparing for the start of the new school term sets out the approach that must be taken, including a number of health mitigations. They include risk assessments, enhanced hygiene measures and Test and Protect.

"In addition, a surveillance programme is being developed for schools, where regular testing and survey data will identify symptoms and infections in the school population. This will allow regular reporting on incidences of infection and inform the ongoing development of guidance for schools.

“We will continue to discuss all measures that can be taken to ensure our schools are safe for staff and pupils.”

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