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Schools prepare to reopen in Scotland

06 August 2020

ROBUST SAFETY measures, monitoring, testing and swift information sharing must all be in place in every school and college in Scotland in order to ensure that they can open their doors and keep them open whilst minimising the risk of a rise in COVID-19 transmission in the wider community.

As schools and colleges prepare to reopen, the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union is highlighting the need for robust systems of monitoring and enforcement to be in place in every local authority to ensure schools are taking all necessary steps to keep pupils and staff safe.

Teachers who are preparing for the full reopening of schools remain anxious that everything that can be done should be done to make sure that schools are Covid-safe.

The NASUWT is also calling for effective systems of information sharing from employers about local infection rates and clear protocols about the arrangements to be adopted by schools and colleges in the case of any local outbreaks or lockdowns.

While the Scottish Government says its test and protect system will be sufficient to protect school staff and pupils, the NASUWT is urging the introduction of regular, routine testing of all school staff and pupils in order to ensure cases are not missed, particularly given that children and young people are more likely to be asymptomatic for COVID-19.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said, “While the vast majority of schools and colleges are doing everything they can to minimise the risks to staff and pupils when they reopen, it will be important to ensure that where appropriate safety measures are not fully in place, plans to reopen any individual school are paused to enable the necessary safety measures to be put into place.

“Teachers and other staff working in schools want to be assured that when they return to the workplace they will be afforded the same level of protection as staff in other occupations and workplaces.

“The Government and employers need to demonstrate that schools are ready to reopen safely and must not leave the safety of children, teachers and the general public to chance.

“Regular inspections of schools and colleges and public health communications to all staff, parents and in the wider community will be vital to guard against the risk over time that fatigue or complacency over safety could result in new outbreaks of the virus.

“It is important to remember that we remain in a public health emergency and the Scottish Government and employers must do everything they can to ensure that reopening schools does not lead to an increase in cases of COVID-19.

“This is why routine, widespread, testing systems, coupled with effective information sharing measures are so important, along with the mitigation and safety measures schools and colleges are being asked to take.

“There is a fine balance involved in fully reopening schools and easing other lockdown measures whilst trying to keep the virus under control. Ministers and employers must ensure that health and safety remain the paramount priority and that schools proceed with caution to safeguard the health and safety of pupils and their staff.”

Jane Peckham, NASUWT National Official Scotland, said, “School leaders and staff have been working phenomenally hard in very difficult and uncertain circumstances to ensure that they can safely reopen and many pupils and staff are looking forward to returning to school and college.

“However, many also remain anxious about their health and welfare and the provision of routine COVID-19 testing in schools, along with monitoring systems to ensure the safety of staff and pupils, would go a long way to providing extra reassurance that all steps which can be taken to keep schools safe environment are in place.

“Staff and parents also need to be clear about what safety provisions are in place in the event of any school-based or local outbreaks of COVID-19.”