Teachers say that COVID safety measures are impossible to maintain in Special Education

Created on: 15 Dec 2020 | Last modified: 01 Mar 2021

The EIS has today (Tuesday) published a briefing paper which highlights the reality for teachers working during the pandemic in Special Education settings.

The briefing is based on the findings of a recent EIS national survey, with responses from almost 19,000 teachers. The comments from teachers confirm the many challenges they have experienced when trying to implement safety guidance in special education – including evidence that it is not possible to socially distance or routinely wear face masks when working with pupils in special education settings.

Some of the key issues identified include:

  • The strain of working in Special Schools whilst infections have been rising since August is clearly taking its toll on members’ physical and mental health

  • Some members have suggested that the test and protect system is not being followed by their school

  • Special measures must be in place in Special Schools to protect both staff and pupils from COVID

One teacher commented, “I feel that in order to do my job well it is impossible to maintain a two-metre distance from the pupils that I work with and have accepted this level of risk. I imagine this attitude may be dominant in the ASFL (Additional Support for Learning) sector. The Health & Safety advice which is given across the school doesn't seem to apply to us – our biggest protection is crossing our fingers.”

Another teacher said, “Basically, our protection against this virus is an anti-viral spray, blue roll, face mask, hand sanitizer and a sincere hope that we can stay two metres apart from pupils and staff. Trying to stay two metres away from pupils that are struggling and need help with their work is practically impossible.”

Another added, “More guidance for teachers of pupils with ASN needs to be provided. The pupils cannot physically distance from us which puts us and them at greater risk. We are in classrooms with other adults which also increases our risk.”

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Teachers working with pupils with additional support needs, particularly those working with young people with acute special needs, are clear that current COVID mitigations are both unsuitable and inadequate for maintaining a safe working environment in special education settings. Teachers and young people alike deserve the unique circumstances of special education to be fully taken into account, and for sufficient bespoke mitigations to be put in place to protect their health and wellbeing.”

Today’s briefing on teachers in Special Education is the latest publication 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.

Today’s briefing (copy attached) and further information on the #NotAtAllCosts campaign can be accessed via the EIS website at www.eis.org.uk/Information/NotAtAllCosts