Current guidance and staffing to support pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN) is currently completely inadequate to provide a COVID secure environment for pupils and staff, a meeting of ASN teachers has been told.

The EIS ASN Network meeting urged local authorities and the Scottish Government to provide more detailed guidance and enhanced staffing to ensure that the needs of all young people can be met in an appropriate COVID-secure environment.

The online meeting, held this morning, heard from ASN teachers from across Scotland, who shared their experiences of working with young people, many with acute additional support needs, while attempting to work within COVID guidelines which aim to ensure a safe working environment for pupils and staff.

During the meeting comments from teachers who work across Special Education, within specialist ASN Units and in mainstream education included:

  • “ASN provision just can’t function while using the COVID guidance. The pupils we are working with need the close contact and the close support, which is totally incompatible with COVID guidance.”
  • “Children with ASN are currently receiving inadequate support. This is leading to ASN teachers struggling through, and potentially putting themselves at greater COVID risk in getting too close to pupils for prolonged periods of time.”
  • “Pupils need close contact and to be able to see their teacher’s face, or they cannot cope.  They need someone sitting next to them, which we are not allowed to do for any length of time.”
  • “We are unable to wear face masks to stay safe when in close contact with pupils, as pupils need to see your lips move and your face to understand what is being said.”
  • “Teachers are doing all the required enhanced cleaning during the day, as there are no cleaning staff available while the school is open.”
  • “Children with physical needs need a lot of support – and teachers are cleaning up bodily fluids etc during the day to try to maintain a safe environment for all.  But, again, they are potentially putting themselves at risk in doing so.”
  • “The level of PPE required is just not there for ASN teachers.  There is pressure being placed on the teachers – a form of emotional blackmail – to ‘go the extra’ mile to meet the needs of these pupils.”
  • “Many children with additional support needs are just not coping with the safety measures. They cannot deal with the one-way systems, and are unable or reluctant to use things like hand gels.”
  • “Advice on ASN (provision) was too late, too vague, and totally inadequate.”

Commenting following the meeting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "Teachers working with pupils with additional support needs always want the best for these young people, and are doing all they can to continue to meet their needs while working within current COVID guidance."

"It is, however, extremely clear that the current COVID guidance is totally inadequate for teachers working with young people with more complex additional support needs."

Mr Flanagan continued, "Young people with additional support needs were amongst those impacted most negatively by the school closure period. There is a desperate need for more detailed guidance and enhanced staffing to ensure that the needs of all young people with additional support needs, particularly the most complex,  can be met in a COVID-secure school environment."

"ASN teachers are currently going the extra mile – and potentially putting themselves at greater risk of being exposed to COVID – to attempt to meet the needs of their pupils. Pupils and teachers must have the support that they need from local authorities and the Scottish Government."

Mr Flanagan added, "The current situation, with ASN teachers being compelled to clean classrooms, including cleaning up bodily fluids, in order to ensure a safe environment simply isn’t sustainable."

"Pupils with more complex additional support needs and ASN teachers must have the guidance, support and resources that they deserve to allow them to learn and to teach without compromise to their health and safety, and with minimal negative impact on their wellbeing."

} False 8921