Concerns over Safety must be Addressed Following FM's Announcement

The EIS has responded to the First Minister’s announcement on the return to school for nursery children, P1-P3 pupils and some senior phase secondary pupils and warned that significant concerns over school safety remain to be addressed.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "Everyone is supportive of face-to-face teaching returning as soon as possible – that should not override safety concerns, however, and teachers will be understandably nervous around today’s announcement.

"Community infection levels have fallen but still remain high in areas such as North Lanarkshire and at 6% the test positivity rate in Scotland remains above the level that the World Health Organisation recommends as indicative of the virus being under control."

Mr Flanagan continued, "Against this backdrop, the EIS continues to believe that a blended learning model, with around half of pupils in classes at any one time to allow for physical distancing, would have provided a more cautious and more appropriate basis for pupils returning to schools."

Mr Flanagan added, "Teachers remain concerned about the increased transmissibility of new Covid variants of the virus, especially aerosol transmission, and it is disappointing that the Scottish Government has not supported the introduction of medical grade face masks for staff, as they offer greater protection for wearers than simple face coverings."

"It should reconsider its stance as a matter of urgency.  We would also expect that staff with increased vulnerabilities will be advised to continue to work from home during this first phase."

Mr Flanagan continued, "The introduction of twice weekly testing for staff and senior pupils is welcome, as is the requirement for senior pupils to physically distance."

"Looking forward, however, to any fuller return of pupils it is clear that the prioritisation of teachers and other school staff for vaccination remains a straightforward way to ensure in-school safety. If having schools open is a priority for the Scottish Government, then protecting school staff should also be a priority."

He concluded, "Whilst Scottish Government timelines can appear to be self-fulfilling prophecies, there will need to be a meticulous analysis of this first phase and its impact, before any further return is progressed."

Media resource: An audio clip related to this press release