SCOTLAND'S biggest teaching union has warned of an agreement over industrial action on coronavirus safety while lodging two collective grievances with two local authorities on the first official day of re-opening of Scottish schools.

EIS has said it lodged its safety concerns with Scottish Borders Council and Moray Council which it said failed to allow phased returns of pupils and failed to properly consult and reach agreement with it and other unions.

Lack of discussion around using the flexibility of a phased return meant that staff are under "intense pressure "over schools reopening.

It comes after a poll of nearly 30,000 teachers in Scotland outlined serious safety concerns in advance of primary and secondary schools beginning a phased re-opening from yesterday.

some 81.9% have said they registered varying degrees of a lack of confidence over the ability to keep the required 2m distance in the classroom.

Three in four have said they feel unsafe returning to school with the majority saying they feel uncomfortable teaching without social distancing between pupils.

READ MORE: New Covid safety fears as over 80% of Scots teachers are not confident over classroom social distancing

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The recent EIS national survey indicated majority support from members for industrial action if required, to ensure the safety of staff and pupils in our schools. We will always seek to resolve collective grievances through dialogue but councils such as Scottish Borders need to engage with the EIS and not seek to bypass proper discussions by claiming a ‘corporate decision’ has been made.”

Scotland's pupils began returning to classes for the first time since lockdown began nearly five months ago.

Borders and Shetland schools were the first to reopen with most others following today.

Yesterday was considered as a national inset day, which means very few if any pupils attend, leaving teachers and staff to prepare for re-opening.

The EIS say that some local authorities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh agreed a return on the 10th to facilitate two days.

All age groups returned in the Scottish Borders yesterday - a week earlier than the normal start of term - but most councils have opted for a phased approach, for instance by having youngest pupils return first.

The Borders also went with two inset days, but during the summer decided to only have one described by the EIS as a “corporate decision without discussion".

The union said sufficient inset days were needed to allow risk assessments to be signed off, safety precautions put in place and legal requirements such as child protection training to be carried out in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

An EIS spokesman said: "The EIS, and other unions, have worked alongside Scottish Borders Council management to have updated risk assessments in place, but time is needed for these to be put in place more effectively so that all staff and youngsters can feel safe and secure on their return.

HeraldScotland: School pupils

"The EIS is disappointed that the request for a phased return or a second in-service day was not being considered at the Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers. The Scottish Borders Council grievance asks for a phased return of pupils and Scottish Borders Council has responded by acknowledging our concerns but not acknowledging our grievance. The EIS will be pursuing this matter."

A total of 29,867 teachers completed the latest survey from its launch on August 4 to the Monday morning – the largest survey return the union has ever had.

And some three in four say there should be priority testing available for asymptomatic teachers, with a further 57% saying it should also be available for pupils.

Some 60% expressed support for the decision to reopen schools but a similar figure, 66%, expressing anxiety and a lack of confidence that sufficient mitigations would be in place.

Just 1 in 5 expressed confidence that schools are currently safe with the union saying that indicated "that much more needs to be done to reassure staff that schools are safe to work in".

While councils have been given some flexibility over the back to school timetable, the Scottish government wants all schools fully open by August 18.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “Throughout our planning for the reopening of schools we have been engaging regularly with colleagues from the relevant trades unions and therefore we are extremely disappointed at the course of action now being taken. This creates unnecessary concern for parents and pupils at what is already a challenging time and we hope to resolve it swiftly.”

A Moray Council spokesperson said: “We discussed return to school guidance with trade unions throughout the school summer holidays and published this guidance following seven virtual consultations with head teachers prior to the start of term. There are arrangements in place across our schools to help pupils and staff phase back to normal in the first few days, including staggered starts and soft introductions to the curriculum, particularly for those in transition years of P1 and S1.”