Stronger guidance has been demanded for schools for pupils with additional support needs, amid claims desperate staff feel forgotten in the pandemic.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association said that with some children with complex needs unable to follow Covid safety guidelines, they, their teachers and other staff were being put at real risk from the virus.
Restricting pupil numbers at these schools would reduce the risk, said SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson, and clearer rules would allow head teachers to decide which pupils should stay at home during the new lockdown.
In a letter to Education Secretary John Swinney, Mr Searson said the situation was becoming critical for those in ASN schools and departments.
Deemed vulnerable children, pupils with additional support needs are able to return to school this week along with children of key workers, while the majority of children will be taught remotely throughout January.
ASN schools in Tayside and Fife – including Kingspark School, in Dundee, Kilmaron School, in Cupar, and Calaiswood School, in Glenrothes, which all reported coronavirus cases last term – will reopen on Thursday.
Mr Searson said there was no mention of ASN schools in the First Minister’s announcement on Monday of another lockdown and extension of remote learning until at least the end of January.
He said: “In ASN schools pupils often can’t follow the safety guidance. One teacher told me she has a pupil who bites her.
“If the children aren’t able to follow the safety rules to keep themselves and everyone else safe those children should be working from home.
“It may be difficult for the parents but we need to keep everyone safe.”
Stronger advice from the government, he said, would enable head teachers to reduce class sizes, offering staff and pupils greater protection.
The government needs to do something now to give clear guidance to teachers in ASN schools because they are desperate. They feel forgotten.”
Seamus Searson, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
He said: “Arrangements are being left to the schools, but the schools should be given guidance from above.
“The lack of guidance is putting all the pressure on head teachers to make that decision and head teachers are reluctant to refuse children.
“The government needs to do something now to give clear guidance to teachers in ASN schools because they are desperate. They need to know what they can and cannot do. They feel forgotten.”
He also said parents were left in a dilemma because while children being at school is respite for many, they feared sending them to school was putting them at risk.
The Scottish Government guidance updated on Wednesday details arrangements for the return to school after the Christmas holidays, and states schools will open this week for the most vulnerable children and children of key workers.
A spokesman said: “The definition of vulnerable children includes those with additional support needs, and it is for education authorities to determine the arrangements for this provision locally, in line with guidance, and to update all school staff accordingly.”