TEACHERS have warned that Scotland’s schools are no longer ‘Covid safe’ as cases of the virus continue to soar.

Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, has also called for the Scottish Government to draw up plans for triggers that would require local or national school closures or blended learning plans to be put into action – as well as a contingency plan for staff previously shielding as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

On Sunday, 344 cases of coronavirus were confirmed through a test in the previous 24-hour period, while on Saturday 714 cases were confirmed – the largest number of daily cases since the crisis began.

Nicola Sturgeon and her chief medical officer have insisted it remains safe for schools to remain open full time – stressing that restrictions have been put in place in other settings partly to ensure that provision of education continues. 

Teachers and lecturers raised concerns at a virtual meeting of the EIS council - renewing a call for tighter physical distancing measures to be rolled out across schools.

The EIS has also formally called for clear guidance from the Scottish Government on ventilation and heating in classrooms as well as specific assistance for supporting ASN pupils.

The EIS has expressed a lack of confidence in the SQA’s handing of the 2020 exam replacement and the body’s planning for the 2021 exam diet.

READ MORE: 'Unacceptable risk': Scottish Government told to scrap 2021 exams

The EIS council also approved a motion by Glasgow primary teacher, Nicola Fisher, raising concerns over the high number of daily cases now being reported in Scotland – calling for more to be done to protect staff and pupils from the virus including reducing class sizes.

Ms Fisher said: “The Scottish Government decision to re-open schools was predicated on low instances of the virus, so the current mitigations in our schools are just not effective given the current increases in the virus across the country.

“This has led to the current situation where you can only meet one other household and no-one in your own home – but somehow in school classrooms we can have 34 households in a class, with 33 pupils and a teacher.

“We need to continue to push on these issues and we must be absolutely clear what our campaign is about – keeping our members, and the children in our schools, safe.”

READ MORE: A third wave of Covid is "entirely possible"

Susan Quinn, EIS local association secretary for Glasgow, added: “It is important that our members are aware of what their elected leaders are doing, on their behalf, to make our schools safe.

“It is incumbent on us, the lay leadership of the union, to take these issues forward on behalf of members. It is crucial that our members see that we are continuing to push for fewer people in classes, to protect their health and wellbeing.”

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister reassured teachers and parents that schools are safe. 

She said: “I think schools are safe to be open full time. I think it’s really important that schools are open full time – that's one of the reasons why we are asking the rest of us to live with greater restrictions on freedoms so that we do manage, in other ways, to try to keep the virus at a level where schools can open full time. 

“With a global pandemic of an infection virus that, as yet, we have no vaccine for, there is no country that can have a 100 per cent normality. Everything we want to say that’s a priority to stay open, we have to effectively make that possible by accepting restrictions somewhere else. 

“We have chosen, as one of our priorities, keeping schools open and that’s why we are having to live with restrictions - to try and make sure that those trade-offs allow that to happen.” 

Ms Sturgeon added: “Local authorities have flexibility. In the Western Isles, there are some schools that will be closed over the next three days because of cases there. They have decided on a precautionary basis to do that while contact tracing happens.

"Proportionate, precautionary decisions will be taken and of course, we will always require to have a blended learning contingency in place because none of us unfortunately know exactly what the winter period will hold in store for us. 

“The more we can collectively try to keep the virus under control, the more chance we’ve got of keeping schools open which I think is important not just for education, but the health and wellbeing and prospects of young people across the country.” 

Scotland’s chief medica officer, Dr Gregor Smith, added: “My view very strong just now is that it remains safe for schools to be open and to be teaching education in person just now. 

“It’s something that I feel very, very, important that we make sure that we protect the ability for some of our more vulnerable children to have that in person education and that their life chances are secured as strongly as possible.” 

He added: “We know from the evidence that in-person education is much better for them in the longer term and that it helps to reduce some of the inequalities that we see within society. 

“Anything that we can do as a county to try to make sure that we protect the ability for that education to continue to take place on a face-to-face basis, we should try to embrace.”