More needs to be done to reassure parents and teachers of a safe return to school, according to union leaders.
Both parents and staff will remain nervous about the full-time return to school from August 11 confirmed on Thursday, said Educational Institute of Scotland general secretary Larry Flanagan.
He said extra teachers being employed with additional government funding could allow smaller classes and there must be proactive testing and rigorous distancing between staff and students.
Warning against complacency, Mr Flanagan said: “The decision of the Scottish Government to reopen schools with a full pupil return is predicated on the current successful suppression of the virus but as we are seeing in parts of Europe, that situation can change quite quickly.
“Even with full implementation of the guidelines and its mitigations, many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom.
Many teachers and parents will be understandably nervous about a return to the classroom.”
Larry Flanagan, EIS
“The EIS believes more could be done to reassure school communities around safety if smaller classes were introduced as the norm, employing the many unemployed teachers currently seeking work.
“The additional funding announced is welcome, therefore, but this needs to translate into smaller class grouping to support physical distancing amongst pupils.”
The union’s Fife spokesman, David Farmer, said he was disappointed the guidance failed to answer many questions.
He said: “In certain areas of the advice where there was a need for crystal clarity, that’s not there.
“There weren’t decisions taken about social distancing, for example, which seems to be a bit of a fudge.”
He questioned the encouraging of distancing “where possible” for senior pupils.
The total abandonment of social distancing in primary schools is something that for our members creates anxieties.”
David Farmer, Fife EIS
He said: “The whole idea of having social distancing in a normal-sized classroom with a teacher and 30 kids, forget that.
“The total abandonment of social distancing in primary schools is something that for our members creates anxieties.”
Former Harris Academy rector Jim Thewliss, who is general secretary of head teachers union School Leaders Scotland, said he was “more or less” content with the advice but that teachers would still have worries.
He said: “The greatest concern I would expect from staff going back to school is around distancing and the way in which they engage with young people.
“If you are in a profession where engagement is all, the way in which you conduct the relationship with a young person, the way you get them to learn, to say we want you to disengage, that in itself is going to be difficult, besides the fact there is a health implication to it.”
The STUC urged the government and local authorities to heed teachers’ advice to ensure schools were safe.
Dave Moxham, general secretary, said: “Schools re-opening full-time is an enormous step which requires continuing suppression of the virus across communities, the full implementation of safety guidance and a proactive testing regime.
Schools re-opening full-time is an enormous step.
Dave Moxham, STUC
“Despite the correct decision not to move into phase four, it is vital that we recognise that school re-opening coincides with a wider return to work under phase three and that pressures on school and public transport must be carefully monitored.
“Government and local authorities will need to listen carefully to staff across the whole school community as they strive to maintain a safe environment, allay the fears of pupils and parents and provide a positive education experience in these abnormal times.”
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