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Only just over a quarter of teachers in Scotland think it will be safe for their pupils to return to their school or college in August, a survey by NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, has found.

Nearly half of teachers who responded to the survey said they do not feel prepared to return to their school or college in August and just 22% said they feel safe or very safe as a result of the provisions their employer is putting in place to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.

The survey, which examined the experiences of over 350 teachers in Scotland during the lockdown and in preparing for wider reopening from the start of the new academic year in August, found concerns about a lack of PPE and adequate safety measures to protect staff and pupils in schools and colleges.

The survey found:

  • Nearly half (49%) of teachers do not feel prepared to return to their school or college in August;
  • Only just over a quarter (28%) think it will be safe for their pupils to return to their school or college in August;
  • Over a third (34%) of teachers who said they were in one of the government’s vulnerable groups said they had nevertheless been asked to attend work during the lockdown period;
  • Just 22% said they felt safe or very safe as a result of the provisions their employer is putting in place to mitigate their risks of COVID-19. Over a third (36%) said they either felt unsafe or very unsafe;
  • Only 19% have been told there are plans to deploy additional cleaning staff in their school or college. Over a quarter (27%) said teachers and/or pupils are being asked to undertake cleaning;
  • Only a minority of teachers said their school or college has sufficient stocks of PPE, including masks (10%), gloves (15%) and hand sanitiser (35%). Only 38% were confident their school or college has sufficient availability of soap and hot water to enable regular hand washing by staff and pupils.

82% of teachers said they were asked to return to school in June to prepare for reopening in the new academic year. Of the tasks teachers were asked to return to school to undertake, 30% said this work could have been completed from home.

Teachers were asked about the impact of the pandemic on exams, with 83% saying they believe changes are needed to the exam diet for 2021 as a result of the lockdown, with 53% in favour of a delay to exams.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Given the abrupt eleventh hour changes announced by the Scottish Government just as schools and colleges were preparing for the summer break, it is little wonder that so many teachers do not feel that schools and colleges are prepared for the full return of pupils in August.

“Teachers have been left in a state of uncertainty by the announcement, which has made it particularly challenging for schools and colleges to plan and prepare appropriately for reopening on a full-time basis from 11 August.

“Schools and colleges must be given dedicated time to finalise their plans for full reopening before the return of pupils.

“It is also concerning that teachers are reporting that their school or college does not have adequate safety provisions in place, such as PPE and enhanced cleaning routines and that a significant number of vulnerable teachers have been pressurised to attend work by their employer.

“The Government needs to address the concerns raised by teachers and ensure that all schools and colleges take appropriate action to ensure that teachers and other staff are safe at work.”

Jane Peckham, NASUWT National Official Scotland, said:

“The survey underlines the fact that ministers still have much work to do to win the confidence of teachers in their plans for the wider reopening of schools and colleges. This will not have been helped by the timing of the decision on full reopening, particularly as many teachers had spent considerable time and effort developing a model of blended learning for pupils.

“The Government must now ensure that the next steps on school and college reopening do not put at risk public health and that there are robust mechanisms in place to ensure that all employers are taking effective measures to minimise and mitigate the risks of COVID-19 in every school and college.

“They must start listening to and acting on the concerns of the profession so that we can achieve the shared aim of an orderly return to full teaching and learning in a way which supports the safety and welfare of every pupil and member of the education workforce.”

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