Schools in Dundee could be in danger of closing if more teachers have to self-isolate, a union leader has warned.
Amid worries about the rate of infection in the city, David Baxter of the Educational Institute of Scotland claimed schools were in a precarious position.
Too many teachers having to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of pupils who test positive for Covid-19 could result in schools having to shut.
Before the October holiday two primary schools in Fife where several people contracted the virus had to close due to staff shortages.
EIS Dundee secretary Mr Baxter said: “It’s a fairly precarious time.
“If teachers are going to have to self-isolate you will hit a tipping point where we will run out of teachers.”
Tighter coronavirus restrictions will come into force on Monday, after a spike in the infection rate led to Dundee being placed in level three of the Scottish Government’s new tier system.
Mr Baxter spoke out after it was also revealed that senior pupils in city schools will have to wear face masks in class from Monday under new guidelines for tier three areas.
If teachers are going to have to self-isolate you will hit a tipping point where we will run out of teachers.”
David Baxter, EIS Dundee secretary
Mr Baxter said: “We have seen an increase in positive cases in schools and we are seeing teachers and pupils self-isolating.”
If the number of cases in the community grows, he said, it could result in many more teachers having to stay at home.
He said: “If there are more community transmissions the likelihood is there will be more positive cases in pupils and more self-isolating amongst the staff.
“There’s a real risk that there won’t be enough teachers.
“It’s not possible to collapse classes because you are mixing bubbles and you can’t send classes to the dinner hall because it breaches the risk assessment.
“We do welcome the stronger message on face coverings and ventilation but almost it doesn’t go far enough to keep schools open, which is the Scottish Government’s priority.”
More space and more teachers
School closures are not required even in the top level of the government’s new tier system and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the government wanted to keep schools open if at all possible.
Mr Baxter appealed to the government to make physical distancing possible in schools by using other buildings to create more space and recruiting more teachers.
He said: “Schools are not built for the social distancing that is happening in the rest of society.
“If the Scottish Government is really serious about this, now is the time to invest in increasing school estates, including increasing the number of teachers employed by taking people from the supply list and permanently employing them.”