Scots teachers warn 'urgent action' is needed before schools return

Teaching unions have warned that "urgent action" is needed to protect pupils and staff before schools return full-time next week.

Scots schools are poised to return next week
Scots schools are poised to return next week

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is to survey members over the coming days amid concerns over physical distancing and class sizes, testing in schools, as well as contradictions between procedures for schools and other settings.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan has today written to Education Secretary John Swinney to raise "significant concerns" over guidelines for the re-opening of Scotland’s schools, planned for next Tuesday.

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Mr Swinney told Parliament last week that schools would return on a full-time basis. Mr Flanagan had initially raised concerns at a meeting of the Education recovery group last week.

"Whilst the Guidelines represented the generality of where agreement was possible, they nonetheless fell short from an EIS perspective in significant areas,” Mr Flanagan states in his letter.

The Scottish Government has urged schools to make classes smaller where possible to meet physical distancing requirements.

But Mr Flanagan states: "We would urge an urgent reconsideration of the physical distancing rules. We would ask, also, for an updated science report on this area, given that the previous paper was published mid-July and, as we know, knowledge about the virus is constantly developing.

"How is the Scottish Government monitoring global information on the role of children and schools in relation to potential virus transmission?

"If it is to be argued that smaller classes are not possible because of either staffing constraints or accommodation challenges, I would simply ask what has happened to the 3,500 retired teachers willing to return to the classroom or to the use of property beyond the school estate?"

Testing should also be made available in schools even when no symptoms are displayed, the union says.

Mr Flanagan adds: “We would urge that further consideration be given to a more proactive approach to supporting teacher and staff confidence that they are working in Covid-secure schools, by providing asymptomatic access to regular testing.”

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The EIS has also opened a new survey of its members in schools across Scotland to seek their views on these issues and on the steps that should be taken to ensure that schools are safe. The survey will run for the rest of this week, and the results will inform further discussions with the Scottish Government and local authorities ahead of next week’s planned re-opening of schools.

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