Exclusive: Missing Covid cash forces teachers to clean

Teachers, school staff and pupils have been forced to clean classrooms themselves to meet Covid guidance, say heads

John Roberts

Coronavirus: Teachers and pupils are having to clean classrooms themselves because schools can't afford to pay for extra cleaning, warn headteachers

Teachers and pupils are having to clean classrooms themselves because schools cannot afford to meet the cost of government Covid guidelines, a top union official has warned.

James Bowen, the director of the policy at the NAHT school leaders' union, warned that the expectation that classrooms were cleaned between lesson changeovers has left teachers and school staff with no option but to do the cleaning themselves.

And he warned that even though in many cases school staff and pupils were doing the cleaning themselves, schools were still running up "huge" costs on cleaning materials that will not be reimbursed by the government.


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Mr Bowen highlighted cleaning of schools as an area where meeting the government's guidance for reopening has been a problem for schools.

He said: “The massive challenge for schools in this is where the government guidance recommends that you clean classrooms in between different groups using them.

Coronavirus: The extra cost of cleaning schools

"So in secondary, particularly, it is simply unavoidable in lots of cases to have pupils moving between classrooms.

"But in order to clean between them, you have a relatively narrow window of time. 

"In an ideal world, you would have a group of cleaners who were on hand at lesson changeovers going into classrooms to thoroughly clean them before the next group. 

"The reality is that this is not possible because no school has the money to employ a team of cleaners so the reality is that what is happening in many cases is that teachers, staff and pupils are being asked to clean workstations themselves.

"I have heard examples where pupils are provided with disinfectant wipes and, as they finish, they wipe down their chair, wipe down their desk and put it in the bin when they go out. Which was just unthinkable six or seven months ago."

Mr Bowen also warned that even with staff cleaning themselves the situation was still proving costly for schools. 

He added: "If you are asking staff and pupils to wipe down tables and chairs in between each lesson, the cost of the amount of cloths, cleaning fluids and wipes you are going through is huge. 

"It might start off small but if you do that across 35 classrooms five times a day over the course of a term you are going to go through a huge amount of cleaning equipment."

The NAHT has already warned that schools are spending thousands of pounds extra in meeting Covid guidelines.

A survey earlier this month found that in just a few weeks since the beginning of term, schools in England have spent an average of £8,017 on additional costs to minimise the risks of Covid-19, which have included enhanced cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand-washing stations.

The union is now calling for these costs to be reimbursed by the government.

Earlier this month, a poll by the NASUWT union also highlighted concerns over school cleaning during the Covid pandemic.

Just over half (56 per cent) of its members who took part in the survey said their school had clear and adequate arrangements in place for enhanced cleaning and 45 per cent said cleaning arrangements in their school relied on staff not employed as cleaners.

The poll also reveals 7 per cent of teachers said they were expected to clean toilets themselves.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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