The Scottish Greens have announced a push for the recruitment of 2,000 more teachers – on top of a Scottish government commitment to hire 1,400.
Ross Greer, the party’s education spokesman, has tabled a motion for debate tomorrow on school safety, as teacher and pupil Covid-19-related absence rises.
It further urges the Scottish government to introduce voluntary mass testing for staff and senior pupils and better support for those who are deemed to be vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In August, the general secretary of the EIS teaching union, Larry Flanagan, urged the first minister to recruit 3,500 staff to allow for smaller class sizes.
At the time, Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government would “continue to talk to teachers, parents and the young people’s representatives as we go through this to make sure we are doing what is necessary”.
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As of 10 November, figures show that 1,559 teachers were absent from school for coronavirus-related reasons, along with almost 29,500 pupils – the highest number since these figures started to be recorded in mid-August.
For the motion to pass on Wednesday, the Greens will likely need full support from all other opposition parties at Holyrood.
Ahead of the debate, Mr Greer said: “For many teachers, support staff and their families, the return to full-time schooling has been extremely stressful, particularly since the second wave of the virus began.
“The very least our school staff deserve is to feel safe at work.
“Instead, they are being made to feel expendable.”
The motion also raises letters received by teachers from councils telling them to turn off the Protect Scotland app, which conducts contact tracing for the NHS.
Mr Greer added: “No one wants to disrupt the education of our young people more than it already has been, but this isn’t a choice between education and safety.
“If we don’t take these steps, like recruiting additional staff and making testing more widely available, greater disruption and even school closures will be inevitable.”