New survey of Scottish education staff calls for PPE, training and Covid-19 risk assessments before more children return to education

83 per cent of education staff are anxious about returning to work or, if they are at work, increasing the numbers of children returning to education. 13 per cent are losing sleep worrying about it. Only 3 per cent say that returning to work or increasing the amount of children in schools and nurseries is safe, says UNISON.

These are findings from a UNISON survey of over 5000 education staff in Scotland which was carried out between Monday 18 to Friday to 22 May. Findings from the survey are concerns about a-symptomatic children and parents, lack of social distancing, infection control, and lack of training to prepare for reopening of schools and early years settings.

Key findings from the UNISON survey:
78% of staff who are working with pupils and families at the moment are concerned about their safety at work,
27% say they know risk assessments have taken place but are not confident that action has been taken to respond to issues raised.
25% are not aware that any risk assessments have taken place
10% say they have had training on Covid 19 health and safety e.g. infection control, correct use of PPE or carrying out a Covid 19 risk assessment
24% felt that establishments were cleaned often enough to keep them safe from Covid 19
46% did not feel they had enough PPE, 42% didn’t know what they should have and 12% felt there was enough PPE.
43% say their workplace does not have the staff, resources and expertise to ensure all health and safety measures and risk assessments are in place.19% felt they were. The rest did not know.
Of those who had children of their own, less than 10% felt is was safe for their children to return to school or nursery.

Lorraine Thomson, chair of UNISON Scotland Education Issues Group said: “UNISON’s survey shows the vast majority of education staff are anxious about plans for more children to return to schools and nurseries. Before they return we need clear guidance about how we keep children and staff safe. We need clarity about infection control and appropriate PPE. And all staff need full training on how to implement new rules and how to use PPE.

A lot more work needs to be done to ensure safe return. The Scottish government and COSLA must work with UNISON to develop guidance, implement new rules and undertake risk assessments. We cannot send more children back to school until we all know it is safe for them and all staff. ”

Anonomous quotes from staff in survey: 
“I am really concerned every time I need to go to school and work with children where I am not confident they or their families have not been in contact with other people.”

“PPE just getting implemented now and risk assessment only meeting primary/secondary hubs not early years environment.
Kids with Additional Support Needs aren’t able to comply with any social distancing measures and many require personal care”

“At present I feel ok at work as we are following government guidelines and we only have a small number of children in. I do feel more concerned about schools reopening as normal.”

“You cannot social distance in a nursery, I have been caring for NHS children who are 13 months old, so need changed, comforted, put to sleep”

“Working with children 3yrs + social distancing is very difficult. Discussion with children happen regularly with some of the younger ones understanding the reason why we are social distancing but putting into practise is very difficult for them. At the moment I am in a room with 4 or 5 children and it’s tricky especially if a wee one needs changed or comforted but how will this be possible if 10+ children are playing, snacking etc within a room.”

“It is impossible to social distance from young children, the building in which I work within is very small with lots of furniture and for children to access our outdoor space they need lots of help to put on outdoor play suits so you are within close proximity of each other, this would have to be looked at to keep both staff and children safe.”

“I work in an ASN schools, a lot of our children don’t understand social distance, also social distance is not possible when carrying out personal care duties and assisting with moving and assist duties. I am worried that we will have too many children in one class who will not be able to comply with social distancing and although we have PPE the children will pull off face coverings and rip aprons from the staff etc I struggle to believe the children and staff will be safe.

Notes from survey
5000 education staff from all local authorities responded. The survey has been running since Monday 18 May. 48% work in early years, 33% primary school and 13% secondary schools. Others work in range of community roles.

The biggest group of respondents are early years practitioners and classroom assistants. The survey also includes cleaners, school office staff, technicians, janitors, and caterers.

On PPE for all staff: 22% stated that PPE was not in place at all,18% felt they were short of supples just over and just over a quarter that sometimes it was tight but they had done OK. 30% said there was plenty. PPE most often provided is gloves followed by aprons. These are standard pre Covid for some tasks. 11% indicated that facemasks had been provided.  When ask “What PPE do you feel is missing?” Facemasks was mentioned the most.

A small amount of cleaning staff took part in survey, they worried that they lacked PPE. 22% say they need more cleaning products, 16% say they need more gloves and aprons, 20% say they need masks to tackle Covid-19

UNISON Contacts:

Lorraine Thomson, chair of education issues group: 07826 903559
John Gallacher, regional manager: 07904 342426
Danny Phillips, communications officer: 07944 664110