Safety Measures in Schools are Putting Teachers at Risk

The SSTA conducted a survey of SSTA School Representatives on the measures being used in schools to keep staff safe. The survey highlighted the inconsistent approach to staff safety taken by local authorities across Scotland.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said

“The SSTA has argued for a consistent approach to safety during this crisis but unfortunately some local authorities are interpreting the guidance as optional rather than mandatory”.

“Safety in School must be the first priority. SSTA conducted a survey of school representatives and found an inconsistent approach in schools across Scotland. The SSTA is demanding that the Government set a good example and ensure the highest standards of safety across all schools in Scotland”.

“Physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings are essential parts of keeping people safe and must be the starting point in all schools”.

One rep said “Face coverings are a particular concern at our very large secondary. Pupils are actively defying government guidance and school management has failed to implement and reiterate guidance effectively. The lack of consequences for students is adding to members’ anxiety and stress levels as they do not feel safe at work”.

Another rep said “Pupils not wearing masks in communal areas and ordinary staff trying to enforce this is being met with abuse etc. No consequences apparent for not doing so. Complacency over cleaning and hand anti-bacterial by pupils now. We need stronger measures in place. It's a nightmare”.

Seamus Searson, added  “The Government is due to publish updated guidance for schools in the coming days but the SSTA fears that many measures are likely not to be mandatory. Teachers are desperate for clear definitive measures to keep all staff and pupils safe. Unfortunately, too many Local Authorities and schools choose to see the guidance as optional especially if extra costs are involved. The Government needs to step up and ensure the highest standards and provide all the finance necessary to keep schools open”.

“The Government must also be prepared to reduce the numbers of pupils attending school or closing schools to keep both pupils and staff safe”.
 (Please note: Further comments from reps can be found at the end of this message)
SSTA Survey Main Findings

  • The SSTA survey showed that 38% of schools had mostly introduced measures of physical distancing around the school with 12% of schools having no physical distancing measures at all. 49% had introduced some measures around the school.
  • Physical distancing in classrooms 28% of most secondary schools had introduced physical distancing measures in classrooms. 15% had none at all while a further 49% had some.
  • 64% of senior pupils mostly wore face coverings around the school with 69% of junior pupils mostly wearing face coverings around the school.
  • Only 2% of all pupils wore face coverings in classrooms whilst 53% of senior classes and 49% of junior pupils wore no face coverings at all in classrooms.
  • 94% of staff mostly wear face coverings around the school
  • 21% of staff mostly wearing face coverings in classrooms with a further 63% sometimes wearing face coverings in classrooms.
  • 27% of schools provided no face coverings for staff and 15% provided no face coverings for pupils

The SSTA recommends that all employers ensure that

  • Physical distancing measures must be in place in all school areas, including staff rooms and classrooms, reducing class sizes where necessary.
  • Face coverings are provided for all staff and must be worn in all areas including classrooms.
  • Face coverings are provided for all pupils and must be worn in all areas including classrooms
  • People who refuse to wear a mask must not be allowed to attend school. Medical reasons are the exception with additional safety measures.
  • Plastic screens to be placed in classrooms where physical distancing is difficult and where staff request them.
  • Staff should not be required to share equipment, especially ICT equipment
  • All staff meetings are conducted remotely
  • Visitors must not be allowed in schools unless absolutely necessary.
  • Vulnerable staff should be protected and work from home where appropriate.
  • Provision of cleaning materials in every classroom.
  • Regular risk assessment completed for all student and supply teachers. They need to be adequately prepared with the current guidelines to adhere to school policy.

Comments from Members

“There is limited use of face coverings by pupils and limited enforcement by SMT at entry to school and other areas”.

“There is really poor ventilation of rooms given recent decrease in temperatures and heating is not on in school yet, so if windows or vents open rooms are exceptionally cold”.

“Positive behaviour policy has been deemed fit for purpose by HT and has not been changed to allow different "sanctions" as a result of failures to adhere to new covid safety measures”.

“Pupils make little or no attempt to maintain social distancing on the whole”.

“While provisions are in place for social distancing and pupils are supposed to wear masks between classes, this cannot be enforced (headmaster has admitted this) and many ignore the rules”.

“Once in class pupils don't wear face coverings and are arranged in rows; my desks in the Chemistry lab were in fact further apart prior to lockdown but were changed as pupils shouldn't face each other”.

“I wish the government would just come clean and say that teachers will have to remain at their work even if COVID-19 spreads through schools they are being disingenuous!”

“Already guidance from council is suggesting that as long as teachers are wearing face coverings in class, that will be enough to stop them self-isolating, even if they have been in contact with pupils testing positive for COVID-19”.

“The school is implementing social distancing but it is VERY hard with pupils to genuinely keep this distance, they just keep coming up to you and you have to keep reminding them”.

“Social distancing in school corridors and classrooms non-existent. About 20% of pupils wear facemasks in corridors”.

“There has been a laid back attitude by management around the corona virus. Staff are expected to bring in their own masks. Very large numbers of pupils do not wear any masks at any time - a remarkably large number have become asthmatic during lockdown! Social distancing is only in place in dining areas - there has been no sanctions for pupils not remaining in their assigned areas”.

“HT wants it similar to last year with little/no alterations or consideration for the current situation. Health and well-being of staff was a serious topic during lockdown however it’s no longer a consideration as we are ‘back to normal’. Very worrying”.

“Pupils not wearing masks in communal areas and ordinary staff trying to enforce this is being met with abuse etc. No consequences apparent for not doing so. Complacency over cleaning and hand anti-bacterial by pupils now. We need stronger measures in place. It's a nightmare”.

SSTA School Representative Survey Results – October 2020

A summary of the School Representatives Survey Results can be downloaded here.