After a national survey revealed concerns that staff and students are required to operate in unclean, cold classrooms, the increasingly bitter fight between teachers and ministers over attempts to safeguard Scotland’s schools from coronavirus has escalated.
Meanwhile, some principals and deputies said that coronavirus transmission was not recorded on school campuses. The responses also revealed that educators actually do not believe the stance of the government that schools do not substantially lead to staff and student infections.
The publication of the survey results, collected by Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), comes at a time when workers around the country are announcing formal conflicts with employers that could lead to industrial action.
EIS members in Edinburgh have largely voted to join their Glasgow, Fife and West Dunbartonshire colleagues.
Edinburgh educators vote in favor of a school safety dispute
The strike was called over concerns that, in the face of the continuing danger of the Covid 19 pandemic, employers are struggling to provide a safe working atmosphere for workers.
The EIS says that existing coronavirus interventions in schools do not adequately protect students or workers and that before and after the Christmas holiday there should be more distance learning.
However, fresh studies released by Public Health Scotland indicate that there is no increased risk for school staff and students of serious covid 19 disease.
The latest EIS survey of primary and secondary school teachers shows a variety of work environment issues, with concerns raised regarding cleanliness, temperatures in the classroom, wearing masks, and compliance with guidelines for social distancing.
“One secondary school respondent told the EIS, “One-third of the school’s students do not wear face coverings in the hallways and common areas.
In the school, about five percent of S4-6 students don’t wear face coverings.
In order to ventilate the classroom, windows are opened, causing the space to be cold.
“The heating system in the school is normally switched off.
“More than 100 students were asked to separate themselves during the school week before the October holidays.
“A number of workers have tested positive and were on sick leave for Covid. Reference was made to a letter that there was no proof of transmission intra-school. Utter insanity and frankly inappropriate.
“One elementary school respondent said on the issue of cleanliness, “I feel that there has been a real failure to guarantee that better cleaning is carried out and that the promised investment has not materialized. We had an absent cleaner, which meant that for two days, six classrooms and the student toilets were not washed. Instead, the teaching and support staff cleaned up to keep us and the kids safe. This is an immense concern and, in my opinion, our employer’s huge oversight. To wipe down screens and classroom tables, workers purchase their own wipes.
“All of these things (and many more) make every day a stressful experience right now.” the interviewee said.
Principals and deputies advised the EIS that they are trying their best to enforce safety measures, but that in classrooms and common areas, there are still too many students.
Some said there were no records of transmissions inside their school. One respondent said, “I can’t explain how frustrated I am. It is alarming that there is a lack of transparent documentation, that schools are not being addressed or the scope of cases actually being shared within and between agencies.
“Local knowledge tells us that there is a high level of intra-school transfers in the local area,” he said.
“To listen to the deputy first minister [John Swinney] talk about how there are hardly any incidents in schools when we know otherwise is not acceptable.”
“The Scottish Government’s rejection of distance or blended learning for schools in areas with high infection rates has increased the risk to pupils, teachers and their families. It’s time for the Scottish Government to rethink this damaging policy.” said EIS Secretary General Larry Flanagan. It is time for the Scottish Government to rethink this damaging policy.
Separately, one principal told the SSTA union, “The Scottish Union repeatedly said, “