The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, has issued a direct plea to Nicola Sturgeon over school safety in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The union has pointed out clear inconsistencies in the Scottish Government’s existing policy and is urging the First Minister to do considerably more to protect both staff and students.
The EIS is concerned classrooms, which sit as many as 33 pupils, will not be able to adhere to current social distancing guidelines.
As a result, the union wants better guidance on face coverings, reduced class sizes and more physical distancing.
The EIS also calls on the Scottish Government to fund the hiring of 3,500 additional teachers to help reduce class sizes and make social distancing possible.
In the highly critical letter, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan pointed out Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, said there were concerns around people meeting outside schools in large groups.
Speaking at Monday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Leitch said: “This includes parents gathering at school gates; young people meeting friends without following the guidance on physical distancing.
“People are running the risk of spreading the virus to each other, their families and their loved ones.”
He added: “To remind you, the maximum permitted is eight people from three households, including your own, indoors, and 15 people from five households outdoors.
“Crucially, everyone 12 and over must physically distance from everyone outside their own household.
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“We also need stronger advice on face coverings, where physical distancing is not possible.
“You cannot visit a museum without one but again schools are different?”
Mr Flanagan added: “EIS members supported the decision to reopen schools as we understand the importance of Education to our young people – that does not mean the very real concerns of teachers about school safety should be set aside.
“I urge you and your Government to do more.”
Concerns about school safety in Scotland is growing, just one week after pupils returned to the classroom full time.
Some schools have recorded outbreaks of coronavirus, including one in Renfrewshire and two in Perthsire.
NHS Tayside, and Perth and Kinross Council said the schools will remain open and claimed there is no evidence to suggest there is any transmission of coronavirus transmission within either of the schools and the risk to staff and other pupils has been assessed as low by public health specialists.