Primary and Secondary Teachers Share Concerns over School and Safety

Created on: 16 Dec 2020 | Last modified: 15 Nov 2021

The EIS has today (Wednesday) published two briefing papers which highlight the reality for teachers working during the pandemic in Scotland’s primary and secondary schools.

The briefing is based on the findings of a recent EIS national survey, with responses from almost 19,000 teachers. While some of the challenges in primary and secondary schools differ, teachers in both sectors share commons concerns over the safety of the classroom environment for staff and pupils.

Some of the key issues identified include:

  • Across the sectors, teachers highlighted that social distancing was often impossible within their classrooms.

  • Ventilation is a real problem as teachers are often forced to choose between good ventilation or a warm classroom environment.

  • Those in the Primary sector talked of feeling unsafe and wanting stronger mitigations, including a move to blended learning in higher protection level areas.

  • In Secondary schools, comments suggest that face masks are not being worn consistently, and even where they are in use, teachers do not feel they go far enough to keep schools safe.

  • Some members stated they do not believe the number of cases in schools is being recorded accurately.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Scotland’s teachers are working in environments that many do not believe to be safe enough, and this is having a serious impact on their mental health and wellbeing. The political decision taken by the Scottish Government to keep schools open at all costs, even in areas which are subject to Level 4 restrictions, is wholly inconsistent with other steps being taken to drive down infection.

Our members want to be in schools working with pupils – but they also want pupils and staff to be safe. The Scottish Government’s rejection of remote or blended learning for schools in areas with high rates of infection has increased the level of risk for pupils, teachers and their families. It is time for the Scottish Government to rethink this damaging policy, with the danger of increasing rates of community infection throughout the winter months.”

A sample of comments from primary and secondary teachers are included below.

  • “Blended learning is my preferred option so that a 2 metre social distance can be maintained and children's learning can continue. An earlier finish to the term may help reduce the transmission.”

  • “At the moment I feel very unsafe in my place of work; even although all protocols and guidance have been followed by staff, we have had an exceptionally high number of staff positive with COVID within the last week. I feel unsafe as it is still being classed as not transmitted within the school; I strongly disagree with this. I also feel that parents have not been well informed of the extent of the spread of COVID within our school. I obviously would love to see schools kept open and I know that is the best option of our children - however to what effect on our staff?”

  • “I feel the Scottish Government and local authority have failed in their duty of care. I am currently ill with the worsening of my heart condition, which has been caused by their negligence. It is shameful that the Scottish Government refuse to implement temperature checks, smaller classes and bubbles, social distancing between pupils, masks for all, proper ventilation, and routine testing to identify asymptomatic pupils and staff.   The measures they have put in place so far are far too little and far too late.”

  • “It is a pretence to say that Covid protections are fully in place. Many senior students do not wear masks and we often end up herded together in pinch points like corridors as students travel from one class to another.”

  • “As a parent as well as a teacher blended learning should be in place for at least tier 3. Remote learning for tier 4.”

  • “I believe my council - and indeed government - have failed to protect front line teaching staff. We are seen as expendable.  We are teaching so, so, close to pupils of all year groups with no social distancing and no protection - except a simple mask when present with upper school pupils. I’m worried I’m going to catch COVID and suffer serious health complications just for going to my job.”

Today’s briefings on primary and secondary education are the latest publications to support the EIS campaign #NotAtAllCosts, which argues against the government plan to keep schools physically open ‘at all costs’ even in areas with high rates of COVID infection. The EIS is continuing to share members’ comments online and urges individual teachers to do the same using the hashtag #NotAtAllCosts and tagging the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in their posts.