Staff in Scottish schools told to wear face coverings

Covid guidance for schools comes into force on Monday, with staff and parents expected to wear face coverings in many situations
30th October 2020, 11:41am

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Staff in Scottish schools told to wear face coverings

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/staff-scottish-schools-told-wear-face-coverings
Staff In Scottish Schools Told To Wear Face Coverings

Face coverings should be worn by adults in school at all times when they cannot keep two metres away from other people, new Scottish government guidance states.

Staff and students in S4-6 classes in the parts of Scotland currently most severely affected by Covid-19 have also been told that they should wear face coverings in classrooms.

The updated guidance on school safety has been published to take account of public health advice and the new approach to suppressing Covid-19. It comes into force on Monday 2 November.


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Across all "protection levels" (which run from 0 for the least severe to 4 for the most severe, with all 32 local authorities currently between 1 and 3), face coverings should be worn by adults at all times where they cannot keep two metres from other adults and pupils in primary and secondary schools, with some exceptions in P1-2. Face coverings should also be worn by parents and other visitors to any school site (whether entering the building or otherwise), including parents at drop-off and pick-up.

In local authority areas in levels 3 and 4, pupils in the senior phase - S4-6 - and their teachers should wear face coverings in classrooms, as well as when they are moving around the school and in communal areas.

Guidance for school staff and pupils at the highest clinical risk - those who are shielding - has also been updated.

Deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney said: "Keeping schools open remains our priority but that can only be the case if schools are safe. There have been tremendous efforts applied by staff and pupils to ensure this is the case and I thank them all for their efforts.

"We constantly review the guidance on school opening along with our local authority partners, trades unions, parental representatives and other stakeholders to ensure we are taking all the necessary measures to ensure our schools are safe. This strengthened guidance, produced in light of updated scientific and health advice, adds to the health mitigations that have been in place since schools opened in August.

"From Monday, there will be increased use of face coverings and new advice to help protect those in the shielding category.  

"It is vital that all the measures are followed rigorously in schools. Doing that - together with the collective efforts of all of us across wider society ­- will help to ensure that schools can safely remain open."

Mr Swinney added: "None of the levels in the framework require any automatic move to school closures or blended learning. However, no one can predict what the coming weeks and months will bring. Remote learning remains an important contingency for schools at all levels of the strategic framework and there has been considerable progress made in the provision of remote learning, should that be required."

EIS union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The strengthening of the school guidance in a number of areas is a reflection of the greater risk posed by higher levels of community infection. Whilst the EIS supports the stronger advice in areas such as the use of face coverings and the critical need for adequate ventilation, we remain  dissatisfied with the lack of  specification on social distancing between pupils, which is exhorted but remains impossible to achieve in full classrooms."

Mr Flanagan added: "The proposed mitigations at level 4, essentially face coverings for senior pupils, are inadequate. The EIS is clear that level 4 should trigger an automatic consideration of moves towards blended or remote learning. Schools cannot stay open at any cost; the safety of pupils and staff has to be the priority, especially those with increased vulnerabilities. In the event of any council area moving into level 4, the EIS is likely to consult affected members directly on their views."

The Scottish government states that the updated guidance includes:

At level 3

  • "Parents or guardians should discuss with their GP or clinician whether children with the highest clinical risk should attend school."
  • "Employers should ensure that individual risk assessments for school staff members with the highest clinical risk are in place and updated appropriately, and staff should speak to their employer to ensure all appropriate protections are in place. If protections cannot be put in place, they can discuss with their GP or clinician to see if a fit note may be appropriate."

At level 4

  • "The current advice is that children on the shielding list should not attend school in person. However, we will look further at how we can use individualised risk assessments to maximise attendance for such children during level 4 restrictions."
  • "The majority of workplaces can be made safe for staff. To ensure this remains the case, employers should ensure that individualised risk assessments for school staff members with the highest clinical risk are in place and updated appropriately, and staff should speak to their employer to ensure all appropriate protections are in place. To provide reassurance on this, the Chief Medical Officer will issue a letter similar to a fit note which can be used in the few cases where, following updating of risk assessments and discussions with employers, it is not possible to make a workplace safe for staff."
  • "Greater levels of testing in response to Covid-19 outbreaks in schools may be recommended by the Incident Management Team."
  • "PE in school settings should only take place out of doors."
  • "Non-essential activities or clubs outside the usual school timetable should be paused. This does not include regulated childcare operating from school premises."

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