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EIS teacher Covid survey: Calls for masks to stay in schools over winter

The EIS survey was carried out last month.
The EIS survey was carried out last month.

More than half of school teachers in Scotland want face masks to be worn throughout the winter, according to a major Covid-19 safety survey.

The EIS has published the initial results of an online poll it carried out which focuses on Covid-19 in schools.

It comes as one union official in the Highlands said the profession has faced its most difficult time since the Second World War.

More than 16,000 teachers across the country responded and they want coronavirus safety measures continued throughout the winter.

According to the EIS, 55% of its members want to see face coverings retained over the next few months.

It comes after a Press and Journal survey in October found 88% of people want masks abandoned.

The EIS poll also reveals that just 47% of teachers feel safe with the current Covid-19 mitigations and 19% feel neither safe nor unsafe.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said both councils and governments “must listen” to concerns raised by teachers.

Alistair Bell the secretary for the EIS Highland branch.

Highland union official ‘not surprised’ by poll

Alistair Bell, EIS Highland secretary, said he is not surprised by the survey’s findings and says teachers are feeling “weary”.

He said the profession is struggling because they do not know who will be working alongside them and how many pupils will be in classes.

Mr Bell said: “I don’t think there is anything surprising about the numbers there.

“It has been a difficult year and since it started teachers have felt like there is one set of rules for the general public and another set of rules for education.

“People are feeling like it is nearer the summer holidays rather than the Christmas holidays.

“That is their level of tiredness because usually at the end of the school year they are weary – looking forward to a longer holiday.

“The level of disruption over the last few months has been great.  Staffing varies from day to day due to people isolating.

“The make-up of a class varies from day to day.  So you plan for something but it is different people in front of you.

“It has certainly been the most difficult four months since Covid started and could be construed as the most difficult four months for teaching since the Second World War.”

EIS members want face coverings to continue to be worn.

‘Removing masks will increase stress’

Teachers also left comments as part of the online poll with many making pleas to keep rules around mask-wearing in place.

Some said that pupils had already stopped wearing them with another saying that wearing face coverings during break times is “increasingly difficult to manage”.

One of the respondents to the survey said scrapping face covering altogether would lead to more stress for teachers.

The comment said: “Evidence clearly shows that masks work. It would be premature of us to stop using them over the winter months.

“As someone with a weakened immune system I would feel extremely vulnerable if
face coverings were abolished.

“Working in a school with a health condition or with people at home with health conditions is very concerning and causes a lot of worry for those going into school.

“This is not only my personal experience but that of other teachers I have spoken to who have vulnerable family members at home.

“We are all worried and removing the masks will only increase stress levels for teachers.”

Larry Flanagan.

Union chief urges those at the top to listen

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said teachers “remain concerned” about Covid-19 within schools.

He said the new Omicron variant coupled with the cold winter months will “increase of the risk” of infection in schools.

Mr Flanagan added:  “Teachers continue to work flat-out, in the face of the continuing Covid pandemic, to ensure a quality learning experience for young people.

“It is clear, however, that the threat of Covid has not gone away and, also, that teachers remain concerned about the potential risk to pupils, staff and their families.

“Councils, and the Scottish Government, must listen to and act upon the concerns expressed by teachers.”

Scottish Government response

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The safety of pupils, teachers and school staff is our top priority. Our guidance on reducing Covid risks in schools is informed by expert advice and the views of those on the Covid Education Recovery Group, which includes teachers’ representatives.

“We know this is a concerning time and we will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep the schools safety guidance under regular review.

“Backed by £10 million of additional funding, local authorities have now completed initial CO2 assessments of all learning, teaching and play spaces in their schools, with remedial action being taken where required to ensure good levels of ventilation are maintained.”

More from the Schools and Family team

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