Employers need to take their duty of care seriously
The SSTA conducted a survey of members to gauge their concerns following the return of all pupils to school. The survey highlighted the inconsistent approach to staff safety taken by local authorities across Scotland.
Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said
“It is particularly worrying that 53% of members in Glasgow were not confident in keeping safe following the return of schools but in East Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde the number fell to 22% of members. Staff confidence in keeping safe can only be achieved when all employers ensure that all measures to keep staff safe are put in place, which in turn will keep schools open”
“The SSTA survey showed that local authorities are reluctant to take their responsibilities as employers of teachers seriously to ensure the highest levels of safety during this Covid-19 pandemic. It appears that some local authorities are more intent upon saving money than protecting staff. It cannot be acceptable for safety measures in one authority to be different to another. Members reported that physical distancing measures around the school were best in schools in West Lothian at 86% with the worst 46% in East Ayrshire”.
“A basic safety measure to reduce staff sharing equipment in schools is being ignored as 93% of teachers in South Lanarkshire are expected to share ICT equipment whilst only 19% of teachers do so in Highland. More than 70% of teachers are expected to share ICT equipment in schools. Schools need to ensure teachers are provided with personalised ICT equipment so that they can control their own safety. The provision of face coverings for staff ranged from 78% in Dumfries & Galloway down to only 4% in Argyll & Bute. Equally, we are aware of schools that are enforcing the wearing of face coverings whilst others are leaving it to the individual. Safety is not optional”
“The provision of safe work areas for teachers varies considerably with only 24% in South Lanarkshire allocated a safe space whilst in East Lothian 67% of members reported having been allocated safe work areas”.
“Should employers fail to identify the risks and put measures in place to keep staff safe then they will only have themselves to blame should those same staff need to take time off because of Covid-19. Passing the blame for teacher absences and threatening financial penalties for schools, as Glasgow did this week is not acceptable. Teachers are professionals and deserve a consistent approach to safety. The duty of care lies with the employer (the local authorities) and they need to put safety first”.
“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”.
The SSTA recommends that all local authorities ensure that
- Physical distancing measures are in place in all school areas, especially staff rooms and classrooms
- Face coverings are provided for all staff and worn in all areas including classrooms
- Plastic screens to be placed in classrooms where physical distancing is difficult and where staff request them
- Enhanced cleaning regimes with additional cleaners employed
- Staff 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. If necessary, strict rules and restricted safe areas for visitors must be provided
Main Findings of SSTA Survey
Not confident in keeping Safe in the workplace
Teachers were not confident of keeping safe after returning to school in Glasgow (53%), North Lanarkshire (52%), Clackmannanshire and East Renfrewshire (both 50%). At the other end of the scale members not confident in keeping safe reduced in East Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde (both 22%)
When it came to individual schools keeping staff safe East Renfrewshire (34%), Argyll & Bute (32%), Clackmannanshire and Glasgow (both 30%) were not confident. At the other end of the scale staff in Midlothian, Stirling (both 11%) and Highland (10%) lack of confidence was reduced.
The SSTA survey showed that some areas were better in introducing physical distancing measures around the school with West Lothian (86%), Angus (83%) and Moray (80%) whilst at the end of the scale Dumfries & Galloway (55%) North Ayrshire (50%) and East Ayrshire (46%). In Independent schools 88% had introduced such measures.
When it came to physical distancing in teaching areas Angus (90%), Aberdeen City (84%) and West Lothian (84%) came out on top whilst South Lanarkshire (46%), Clackmannanshire (45%) and East Ayrshire (37%) were far behind.
Staff being provided with face coverings Dumfries & Galloway (78%), Midlothian (73%) and Scottish Borders (67%) with the employer providing the lowest East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire (all on 11%), East Ayrshire (7%) and Argyll &Bute (4%).
Teacher Work Areas
East Lothian, Highland (67%) and Moray (65%) provided teachers with work areas with appropriate physical distancing whilst Glasgow (29%), East Renfrewshire (28%) and South Lanarkshire (24%) providing the least.
High numbers of staff are expected to share ICT equipment with South Lanarkshire (93%), East Dunbartonshire (91%) and East Renfrewshire (87%). While staff were least required to share ICT equipment in Aberdeen City (43%), Perth & Kinross (41%) and Highland (19%).
Please see the attached document for the range of responses by local authority
Please note: The survey was completed at the beginning of September and had 2,058 member responses. Some areas not included due to low level of response.