Almost four in ten schools are struggling to acquire enough cleaning products while suppliers are being accused of "profiteering" from the shortage.
With just days to go before primary schools begin to open up to more pupils on 1 June, a poll of 16,631 school support staff, including caretakers, cleaners and business managers reveals that 39 per cent say their schools are “experiencing a shortage” of cleaning products.
The survey, carried out by support staff Unison for Tes, also reveals that 51 per cent say they have noticed a rise in price of cleaning products.
DfE adviser: School return plan could risk virus spread
Unison's head of education Jon Richards said the shortage of hygiene products was "a concern".
He said: "Schools are already seeing shortages, so the hasty push to open to more pupils means some are scrambling to buy what's needed before the government's arbitrary deadline.
"Schools shouldn't even think about opening safely unless they are clean.
"Ministers must work with unions to make sure schools have the time to put all measures in place for the safest possible return."
Research by Tes reveals one school supplier was yesterday offering a pack of 6 toilet rolls for £12.47, while another was offering a litre of hand sanitiser for £47.99.
School business manager Hilary Goldsmith said: "The cost the manufacture of those products hasn’t gone up. I get that there may be less of them but I don’t see how that pushes the prices up
"The government could have been sourcing those kind of products for schools. It could have been going straight to distributers and guaranteeing a price so that profiteering didn't happen. Why can't it limit a price? Why can't it say you can’t charge more?”
Ms Goldsmith, who works for an academy trust in Kent, said antibacterial hand gel was among the most difficult products to get at the moment - yet she said her schools were going to be asked to supply it in every classroom.
She added: “The guidance is that schools will have to clean every pen and pencil and every piece of equipment in their classrooms every night. How that is going to happen I don't know.”
Another school supplier was yesterday offering a 5-litre bottle of alcohol hand sanitiser gel, plus 6 x 500ml bottles, for £137.50.
Kate Robinson, headteacher at Ormiston South Parade Academy, in Grimsby, said she was prepared for opening for 151 pupils on June 1 after local supermarkets had allowed the school to buy cleaning products before they even put them on the shelves.
She said: “We've been going out to local supermarkets with letters saying can we possibly be the first people in line to buy these items, and we’ve been very fortunate because our local shops have let us buy these items before they put them on the shelves. We bought cleaning products and masks and they let us have first priority. Our community has really stepped up."
The DfE says it is providing additional funding to schools, on top of existing budgets, to cover “unavoidable costs” incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak that cannot be met from their existing resources. This, it says, includes additional cleaning, specifically relating to coronavirus. It also says it is working with key school suppliers to help manage PPE supply chains.