Covid safety measures ‘impossible in special education’

Teachers cannot socially distance or routinely wear face masks in special education settings, union’s briefings paper finds
15th December 2020, 10:09am
Tes Reporter

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Covid safety measures ‘impossible in special education’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/covid-safety-measures-impossible-special-education
Covid Safety Measures 'impossible In Special Education'

Covid safety measures are impossible to maintain in special education, according to a new briefing paper.

The EIS teaching union paper highlights the working conditions of teachers in special-education settings in Scotland, and is based on the findings of a recent national survey of teachers from all backgrounds.

The union says that teachers' comments "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".


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The EIS says that key issues identified include:

  • The strain of working in special schools while infections have been rising since August is "clearly taking its toll on members' physical and mental health".
  • Some have suggested that the test-and-protect system is not being followed by their school.
  • Special measures must be put in place in special schools to protect staff and pupils from Covid-19.

One teacher said: "I feel that, in order to do my job well, it is impossible to maintain a 2m distance from the pupils that I work with and I have accepted this level of risk. I imagine this attitude may be dominant in the ASFL (additional support for learning) sector. The health and 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 sanitiser and a sincere hope that we can stay 2m apart from pupils and staff. Trying to stay 2m away from pupils that are struggling and need help with their work is practically impossible."

Another said: "More guidance for teachers of pupils with ASN (additional support needs) 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."

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 school buildings open, even in areas with high rates of Covid. 

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