College lecturers in Fife fear they are at an increased risk of catching Covid-19 as it emerged face-to-face teaching is to resume in Scotland’s prisons from Monday.
Mid-Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart has called for the decision to provide lessons to prisoners in person throughout the lockdown to be reversed urgently after hearing concerns from constituents.
Fife College was awarded a five-year £22 million contract to provide learning and skills across all 15 of the country’s prisons in 2017 and, unless there is a late U-turn, college staff will be asked to attend classes in prisons from January 11 onwards.
Instances of infection are currently high across the prison population, with the latest figures suggesting that 182 inmates across Scotland’s jails are self-isolating with 14 testing positive.
“This is a ridiculous situation,” Mr Lockhart said.
“While education across Scotland is being hugely disrupted, lessons in our prisons are continuing and Fife College staff are being required to turn up to carry them out.
“This is not a priority at this time.
“College staff are being exposed to a greater risk of infection while face-to-face teaching at the college is being minimised.
“I am urging the Scottish Government to sort this out immediately and change the decision they have made.
Lessons are still due to resume from Monday, with further courses expected to continue from January 18 as planned.
A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said: “The health and wellbeing of all those living and working in our prisons continues to be a priority for the Scottish Prison Service.
“Further education continues to be provided in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines. Local risk assessments have been carried out to ensure that Learning Centres can operate safely, in accordance with public health advice.”
A Fife College spokesman said: “Fife College is following all Scottish Government guidelines regarding the provision of teaching in prisons.
“Full risk assessments have been carried out at each location, with the necessary safety measures put in place.
“The health and safety of staff is always our upmost priority and we would encourage anyone who has concerns to let us know and we can discuss these with them.”