COVID IN SCHOOLS: If the present situation in schools continues teachers will be balloted for industrial action.


By James Halfpenny, of the EIS teaching union

Now that we have been placed in Tier 4 in West Dunbartonshire, people cannot enter another household, face masks are mandatory on public transport and non essential shops, pubs, restaurants, and so on are forced to close with penalties imposed for deliberate breaches.

Further, we are told that no one should travel out of the most infected areas with the threat that to do so is now a criminal offence.

However, step through the “looking glass” into the world of education and this pandemic seems to be considered little more than a mild irritation.

Thirty-plus households can gather in one classroom because, apparently, there is no evidence, we were told, that children are significant spreaders of the virus.

Mandatory mask wearing in corridors, dining halls and other areas where pupils gather has, in many cases, not been adhered to while two metre distancing has always been impossible both inside and outside the classroom.

Frequent hand sanitising and effective cleaning of work areas has proved problematic.

Staff are in no doubt that schools are not safe and pose a direct threat to their health especially those living with underlying conditions.

The dangers to health within schools will clearly increase as we move further into the winter season.

Effective ventilation through open windows is consistently promoted as an essential challenge to Covid-19 and the expected “Flu” virus. However, schools are struggling to maintain an acceptable classroom temperature under these conditions.

In comparison with other areas of society, this blatant lack of concern for health and safety in education is founded in the political expediency of the Scottish Government.

Against all advice from the EIS and teachers in the classroom this SNP Government decided that schools preparation for “blended learning” was not in their political interests and pursued the foolish and callous idea of sending all pupils back at the same time while continuing to disguise the reality of this pandemic in schools.

John Swinney, pictured right, has insisted there were “robust arrangements” to ensure physical distancing takes place between staff and between students and teachers. Not true.

He also claimed that the Scottish Government was constantly monitoring schools “to make sure all the appropriate measures have been taking place”.  Not true.

As of November 10, there were 30,000 primary and secondary pupils self-isolating. More than 2,800 school staff were also off work.

Only 461 children had tested positive between March and September. It has jumped to 3975 since then, just 2 months. A 762% increase.

Yet the Scottish Government has continued to ignore and disguise all the warnings that their policy, driven by a decade of cuts and a desire to reopen the economy, would contribute to virus spread.

Neither the objective of protecting public health, nor the aim of providing the best possible educational experience for our children is being achieved.

Larry Flanagan, pictured left, general secretary of the largest teachers’ union in Scotland the EIS, said: “The EIS is clear that, in areas that are now at Level 4, the current policy of keeping schools operating as normal on a full-time basis is at odds with delivering effective virus suppression.

“It is not only about the safety of schools themselves, it’s about the role of schools in terms of local community transmission.

An effective challenge to this virus can be assisted through the introduction of “blended learning” where only some pupils will be in school while others work from home. This will create smaller classes and facilitate greater social distancing.

The expansion of school estates into the community would also help accommodate smaller classes which in turn would require the employment of the many young teachers who are still looking for a permanent teaching position.

If the present situation in schools continues teachers will be balloted for industrial action. There is a clear and overwhelming feeling among teachers and support staff that during this pandemic we have been “hung out to dry”.

Wishart: Defeat reveals “little faith” in government’s approach to school safety

By Democrat reporter

Speaking after a Scottish Parliament debate on safe schools, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said:  “This defeat shows that there is little faith in the Scottish Government’s handling of school and staff safety in parliament and even less in classrooms across the country.

“The Scottish Government are utterly determined to ignore the vulnerable teachers and staff raising serious and legitimate concerns. As the risk levels have gone up, teachers’ trust in the government has gone down.

“I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary last month to ask him to fix this. I suggested that he imports the framework used in Denmark, where schools have to follow the doctors’ orders on working arrangements. I’m yet to receive a response.

“Instead of spending time engaging with and fixing the problem, Scottish Ministers have spent their afternoon pretending that everything is under control. It is hardly surprising that teacher morale is low.

“The Cabinet Secretary needs to stop the bluster and listen to what teachers are telling him.”

One comment

  1. Bill, Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that the infection rate in school pupils is 0.2% and therefore not a problem. The daily infection rate among the general population is less than 0.1% yet this is so much of a problem that nearly half the population has to go into level 4 lockdown. The government is deliberately ignoring the problem in our schools and playing fast and loose with the health and safety of staff pupils and their families.

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