As schools reopen in Scotland, are children and teachers safe?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it's our 'moral duty' to get all children back to school next month. It comes as schools in Scotland begin to re-open this week, with many pupils returning to the classroom for the first time since March. 

But, with Scotland's largest teaching union warning that it could lead to a resurgence of coronavirus cases - do parents need to be worried? 

What are the Scottish guidelines?

The Scottish government has set out guidelines that schools must follow, which includes: 

  • Measures to allow pupils and staff time to clean their hands with soap and warm, running water or sanitiser, when they arrive at school, return from breaks, change rooms and before and after eating

  • The whole school community should be vigilant for the symptoms of Covid-19, and understand what actions they should take if someone develops them, either onsite or offsite

  • Encourage young people to maintain distance where possible, particularly indoors

  • Discourage social physical contact

  • Use all the available space in classrooms, halls, libraries or social spaces to promote distancing where possible

  • Adjust class space if required, and where possible, to maintain spacing between desks or between individual young people 

  • Seat young people side by side and facing forwards, rather than face to face

  • Avoid situations that require young people to sit or stand in direct physical contact with others

Dr Sara says: “A lot of children are now used to these kinds of behaviours. If parents haven’t educated their children on distancing and hygiene measures, then they must do so now before they return to school. Masks aren't appropriate for young children but could be more feasible for older pupils. Regular testing in schools will be necessary as we can't be losing track if people are catching it.”

However, almost half of teachers questioned by the NASUWT union do not think it is safe for pupils to return.

The survey found teachers are anxious about going back to work and have not been given enough information or time to prepare, with 45% of those questioned thinking it won't be safe for pupils.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has written to Education Secretary John Swinney expressing ‘significant concerns’ about the proposals to reopen schools, saying the move could act as ‘a catalyst to a resurgence’ of coronavirus.

Most experts say schools are safe

The majority of evidence from experts and research underlines that not only are children the least likely to suffer from the worst effects of coronavirus, as has been clear throughout the pandemic - with only 0.8 per cent of hospital patients with Covid-19 under the age of 19.

Professor Russell Viner, a member of the government’s scientific advisory body SAGE (who carried out the report) told the Sunday Times that they found ‘very little evidence of transmission in schools’.