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Two thirds (66%) of teachers in Northern Ireland are reporting they have colleagues who have displayed symptoms of Covid-19 in their school or college, a survey released by NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union has found.

The responses indicate that the education of thousands of children is being disrupted by the pandemic, with more than two-thirds (70%) teachers reporting that classes/year groups or ‘bubbles’ had been sent home because of suspected or positive Covid-19 cases.

While nearly half of teachers (49%) said they were confident about the way their school or college was dealing with suspected and actual cases, almost a third (30%) were not.

Half of teachers (52%) also said their school had split up ‘bubbles’ to send home groups of pupils within those bubbles or classes.

And the survey, in which 929 members responded, laid bare the reality of teachers and principals struggling to cope with significant additional workload pressures arising from the pandemic and that safety and workload concerns are having a major impact on teachers’ mental and physical health and well-being.

The majority said their current levels of stress and anxiety was high or very high (81%).

Other findings from the survey include:
·       88% said they did not believe the Executive was providing the right support for their school during the pandemic.
·       Teachers said workload had increased (45%) or substantially increased (41%) since this time last year;
·       The main workload driver was remote learning preparation (84%);
·       Teachers are receiving fewer breaks (57%) and 4% say they are getting no breaks at all;
·       One in three teachers (29%) say they feel unsafe at school and 13% say they feel very unsafe
·       34% say there is not adequate ventilation in their classrooms and workspaces;
·       More than a third (37%) of teachers say there is not adequate availability of PPE;
·       54% said their mental health was not recognised and supported by managers;
·       53% said their physical wellbeing was not recognised and supported by managers;
·       45% said they felt their concerns were not being supported by managers;
·       60% said pupil wellbeing was being properly supported in their school;
.     47% don’t feel the control measures in their school are adequate.

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Our survey paints a picture of schools and teachers and principals working flat out to maintain a quality education for children and young people despite the immense disruption caused by Covid-19.

“The reality is of more and more teachers being absent from work because of illness or because they need to self-isolate.

“This is putting enormous pressure on schools and their ability to remain open safely.

“Dedicated and talented teachers are also reporting mental health problems and that continuing to work under immense pressure is leaving them stressed, exhausted and worn out.”

NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland Justin McCamphill said:

“The Executive has not done enough to support teachers in meeting the challenges of providing education to children and young people in these unprecedented circumstances.
 
“The Executive must listen to teachers and take urgent action to address their concerns on workload and health and safety.”​

"The Department of Education have taken no steps to monitor compliance with their guidance in schools.

“This situation needs to be addressed by commissioning either the Health and Safety Executive NI or the Education and Training Inspectorate to ensure that all required measures are in place.

"Most importantly the Executive must follow the advice of the Chief Medical and Scientific officers when making decisions. The Covid infection rate remains high in Northern Ireland and not following the scientific advice will cost lives.”

 

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