Jim Halfpenny of the EIS and a message about face masks.

By Bill Heaney

West Dunbartonshire’s EIS teachers’ union has been pushing for face masks to be worn in schools since day one of this pandemic.

The ‘scientific’ advice, filtered through the political lens of Johnston’s Government in London and the Scottish Government, always seemed to run contrary to ‘common sense’ especially in secondary schools where many pupils are young adults. Recent events have shown how quickly the virus can spread among young adults.

This has always been a serious concern to older staff, those with underlying health conditions and those who are pregnant.

Jim Halfpenny, Secretary of the West Dunbartonshire branch of the EIS, said: “However, the Scottish Government say that the wearing of masks is not required in classrooms if teachers can maintain a two metre social distance.

“How many times must we tell them that this is not possible when you have up to thirty three pupils in a room sitting shoulder to shoulder.

“Parents are rightly concerned that their child may contract the virus and bring it home.”

Mr Halfpenny said that in order to protect staff and students, some things are blindingly obvious:

  • Class sizes must be lowered to improve social distancing in schools.
  • Hire the 3,500 teachers as recommended by the General Teaching Council to allow this to be achieved.
  • Introduce a programme of blended learning to keep pupils and staff safe. All pupils should not be in school at the same time.
  • Appropriate PPE supplied for staff and pupils where required.
  • Daily cleaning of schools and the employment of sufficient cleaning staff to carry this out.
  • Track and trace is not sufficient. Invest in urgent testing resources for schools and society generally.
  • Closure of schools at an early stage must be considered if there are positive cases of Covid-19 among staff and/or pupils.
  • Stop the cuts. The Scottish government must fully fund Councils to ensure that these steps are carried out.
  • Local Authority Trade Unions should have a much greater say in the control and supervision of health and safety in schools.

“If we begin to lose control of this virus in schools teachers and support staff may not be prepared to work under those conditions,” Jim Halfpenny said.

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