A TEACHING union has said the option of closing East Renfrewshire’s schools should be considered amid concerns over the safety of staff and pupils. 

The drastic action is being proposed after the area was moved into Level 4 of Scotland’s lockdown restrictions.

A survey of Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) members suggests less than a third of teachers feel safe in schools, despite measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

And the union has said fears about coronavirus are “particularly heightened” for teachers in East Renfrewshire, which has one of the highest rates of transmission in the country.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, added: “The EIS has repeatedly said that schools remaining operational cannot come at the expense of teacher and pupil wellbeing.

“Just as importantly, blended and remote learning models are increasingly being adopted to stem increases in Covid community infection levels.

“For level four restrictions to be as effective as we would wish them to be, short-term closure or part closure of schools need to be considered.”

Less than 5% of EIS members across Scotland who responded to the survey said they felt ‘very safe’ in the current environment, while nearly one in 10 admitted they felt ‘very unsafe.’

Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer, who represents East Renfrewshire as part of his West Scotland remit, has called on Education Secretary John Swinney to improve school safety.

Mr Greer, who is his party’s education spokesperson, told the Barrhead News: “The Scottish Government has made frontline school staff feel expendable, consistently ignoring their concerns throughout this crisis.”

However, Mr Swinney said “extensive guidance” is in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in schools, drawing on the latest public health and scientific advice, with enhanced risk mitigations in Level 4 areas such as East Renfrewshire to protect clinically vulnerable staff and pupils.

He added: “Teachers understand the harm that closing schools in the spring had on children’s learning and wellbeing, particularly on vulnerable pupils, and the evidence to date is clearly in favour of children attending schools in person where safe to do so.

“I am concerned that some of those teachers responding to the survey say they do not feel safe in school. We need to do more to ensure everybody feels safe.

“On testing, we have already put in place arrangements to allow members of school staff who are concerned to get a test whether or not they have symptoms.”