Teachers' Covid fears mount as schools remain open

Concerns raised over government 'spin' on advice around teacher safety, while impact on supply teachers is highlighted
18th December 2020, 3:07pm
Henry Hepburn

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Teachers' Covid fears mount as schools remain open

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/teachers-covid-fears-mount-schools-remain-open
Coronavirus: Teachers' Covid Concerns Mount As Schools Remain Open In Scotland

Teachers are continuing to come forward with their concerns about the safety of schools and the decision to keep them open in many parts of Scotland next week.

Today, a new briefing has put the focus on supply teachers, while the government has been accused of selectively quoting from public health advice on teacher safety during Covid.

This comes in a week when EIS union ballots in a number of local authorities have identified clear support for action against employers over Covid safety. 


Background: Teachers' Covid fears not forgotten, insists Sturgeon

Coronavirus: Teachers in three areas back dispute over Covid safety

Related: Covid safety measures 'impossible in special education'


The EIS, as part of its #NotAtAllCosts campaign, today published a new briefing paper that highlights the views of supply teachers on the difficulties of teaching during the pandemic.

Key issues include:

  • Cleaning was flagged as an issue of particular concern, with members saying that classrooms are not cleaned regularly enough, and that supplies are running out throughout the day.
  • Members said it was impossible to socially distance themselves from their pupils when they need extra support or when the class sizes remain so large.
  • It is proving impossible to keep the classroom warm as well as properly ventilated.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Supply teachers often work across several schools, or across several authorities, in the course of their working week. This places them at a potentially higher level of risk of Covid infection, with a larger than average number of close contacts in any given week."

Coronavirus: Are teachers at greater risk?

One supply teacher who responded to an EIS survey said: "I want schools to stay open. I have been a teacher for 35 years and am deeply committed to the outcomes for young people, especially after recent events for them. However, the 'at any cost' language from the government is insulting, given the lack of concern over teachers' welfare and wellbeing."

"The results for the whole period show that the risk of becoming a COVID-19 case was higher among teachers than the general population". Why is this statement not included in the overview of the report?

- Nuzhat Uthmani (@NUthmani) December 16, 2020

A number of teachers have reacted to findings from Public Health Scotland, which were also cited by first minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish government daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. The body, in a tweet about a report published on Wednesday, said findings "indicate that education staff and pupils have not been at an increased risk of severe coronavirus infection by being in school".

However, teachers pinpointed another part of the same Public Health Scotland report that had not been not highlighted. It states: "The results for the whole [coronavirus pandemic] period show that the risk of becoming a Covid-19 case was higher among teachers than the general population."

One teacher tweeted: "Why is this statement not included in the overview of the report?" Another tweeted: "There is dangerous spin and political bias within reports by supposedly apolitical bodies and advisers."

Green MSP @Ross_Greer says teaching union disputes show that schools "aren't nearly as safe as they should be right now"

Live updates: https://t.co/Qv1i1Wk5mc pic.twitter.com/Lk8uqkmoeF

- BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) December 18, 2020

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