Fears over school safety as Covid surges

First minister Nicola Sturgeon rejects claim that teachers' safety has not been prioritised amid the Covid crisis

Henry Hepburn

Coronavirus and 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.

Background: New Covid variant may infect pupils 'more effectively’

Opinion: 'Teachers should stand tall as they prepare for 2021'

A year like no other: Who is the Tes Scotland person of the year for 2020?

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."

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."

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

Latest stories

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

Covid-19 school safety guidance, explained

The government has offered guidance on how to make schools more Covid-secure, but what is the science behind the measures? We ask the experts
Grainne Hallahan 6 Mar 2021
Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 5/3

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 5/3

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives.
Tes Reporter 5 Mar 2021