Teachers in Fife remain seriously concerned about cleaning of schools and advice on face masks in class, according to a union.
They officially returned to work on Monday two days before the first pupils went back to more than 150 schools across the region.
Despite a raft of measures aimed at reducing the risk of infection from coronavirus, the EIS Fife branch said the beginning of the new term five months since lockdown began was an anxious time.
High demand was being placed on cleaning staff, it said, and greater encouragement to wear face coverings was needed.
Pupils wearing face masks
Fife Council said cleaners were working extra hours and welcomed news that some pupils had opted to wear face masks in school.
In advice issued to teachers before their return, it said children and adults did not have to wear face coverings in school but “can if they would prefer to”, echoing Scottish Government guidance that anyone wishing to wear one “should be allowed to do so”. Face coverings are required by teachers for sustained face-to-face contact.
Staff were also informed that regularly used areas would be cleaned during the day.
But branch spokesman David Farmer said: “Fife EIS still has serious concerns about school cleaning.
“We would note we have great faith in our cleaning staff but the demands on them are even greater than before.
“We have serious concerns about face coverings.
“Shouldn’t the wearing of them by staff – and we have noted already by some students – be actively encouraged?
We have great faith in our cleaning staff but the demands on them are even greater than before.”
David Farmer, EIS Fife
“We note that some school managements are doing this. Others do not appear to be.
“If teachers are truly role models this is the perfect opportunity to encourage what, in a time of Covid-19, is merely common sense.”
Mr Farmer said that with the virus likely to remain a threat for some time, it intends to highlight good and bad practice at its next meeting with the council’s education service on August 28.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers who took part in a Scotland-wide survey by the EIS supported mandatory wearing of face coverings by senior pupils in classrooms.
Only one in five were confident schools were safe and 65% said enhanced cleaning regimes would make them feel safer.
A survey by The Courier found opinion divided among parents on face masks being optional, with 28.3% not happy at all with this stance and 24.9% very happy.
It also found that almost 85% of secondary school parents who responded were concerned – 48.8% of them very concerned – about the risk of infection in schools.
Shelagh McLean, Fife Council head of education and children’s services, said: “It’s good to note that the EIS has great faith in our cleaners, we do too.
“We have brought in staff for additional hours who are working throughout the day to ensure that the areas which are more likely to be used are cleaned regularly.
It’s good to hear that face coverings are being used by staff and pupils should they wish to wear them.”
Shelagh McLean, Fife Council
“Teachers and pupils are also following new cleaning and hygiene protocols which include regular hand washing and wiping down surfaces and resources they’ve used, once they’ve finished using them.
“It’s also good to hear that face coverings are being used by staff and pupils should they wish to wear them.
“This is in line with our guidance.”
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