Fears over school safety as Covid surges

First minister Nicola Sturgeon rejects claim that teachers' safety has not been prioritised amid the Covid crisis
22nd December 2020, 4:04pm
Henry Hepburn


Fears over school safety as Covid surges

Coronavirus & Schools: Concerns Raised Over Teacher Safety As Covid Surges

Fresh concerns over the safety of school staff have been raised in the Scottish Parliament.

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, citing issues raised by the EIS teaching union, said this afternoon that schools "cannot stay open at all costs - the safety of pupils and staff has to be the priority".

He asked first minister Nicola Sturgeon about accusations that the government had not prioritised teachers' safety, and asked for an update on action to protect vulnerable teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ms Sturgeon said: "I do accept that many teachers feel that their safety has not been prioritised, but what I don't accept is that that is true from the government's perspective."

She added: "But if teachers feel that, then I recognise and accept that we continue to have work to do to reassure them, and we will need to do that."

Coronavirus: Concerns about teacher safety in schools

The first minister said the government was "developing plans for more mass testing in schools in the new year". She noted, however, that the past few days had shown that some testing plans in other parts of the UK had issues with "deliverability and sustainability".

Ms Sturgeon said that Scotland had "managed to keep schools open while keeping prevalence of the virus at a lower level than many other areas, [which] is a success".

She also said that the government response to Covid over the coming weeks would be based on a "precautionary approach" until more is known about how the new strain of the virus transmits among young people.

She said the government had taken the "difficult decision to delay the start of the new school term" to 11 January - as announced on Saturday - and to have "at least" a week of studies online from that point.

Ms Sturgeon added: "Our intention is that schools will get back to normal from January 18 - but we will require to keep this under review."

.@patrickharvie calls for routine testing in schools and moves towards blended learning

FM @NicolaSturgeon says plans are being developed for testing in schools and the effectiveness of tests in identifying the new strain is being examined

Live updates: https://t.co/5ITW7MMgfb pic.twitter.com/wrQJd8uk55

- BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) December 22, 2020

Meanwhile, new guidance from the Scottish government on the delayed reopening of schools in January was published late yesterday.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), said the guidance did not address all the concerns raised by teachers.

Mr Searson criticised the lack of details about any extra protection for vulnerable staff and any mention of supply teachers, and questioned why all school staff would be required to return sometime in the shortened week from Tuesday 5 January when there would be a relatively small number of pupils at that stage.

Mr Searson said: "I do wish the deputy first minister [and education secretary John Swinney] would engage and talk to the unions when drawing up this guidance. He may get it right then."

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