UNION leaders has warned that if schools are forced to stay open if parts of Scotland are placed in strict tier 4 rules it could “prompt consideration of industrial action” - and have called for contemplating schools to be closed if necessary.

The warning came after Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed talks were taking place between the Scottish Government and council leaders in Glasgow and other authorities in the west of Scotland about the possibility of being placed in tier 4 – the toughest level of restrictions, next week.

Mr Swinney added that if the decision was taken to move areas from level 3 to level 4, the tight rules would need to be in place for “a reasonable period of time” to be effective.

READ MORE: Glasgow could face tier 4 rules for 'reasonable amount of time'

Now the EIS teaching union has pointed to the fact that almost 30,000 pupils were absent from school on November 10 for Covid-related reasons – while 1,559 teachers were also absent in relation to coronavirus – an 18 per cent increase from the previous week’s figure of 1,326.

EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, has warned that if areas are moved to level 4, it will heighten the likelihood that staff will turn to industrial action is they do not feel safe.

He said: “Our members are increasingly concerned by the week-on-week increase in the number of pupils and staff being infected with Covid-19. This, coupled with the increase in the numbers self-isolating, is having a significant impact on education provision and is raising anxiety levels over the effectiveness of safety mitigations in our schools.

“The weekly figures reveal an increasingly bleak picture and are leading to calls from members for a new approach to ensuring the safety of everyone within the school community.

“With the Deputy First Minister indicating today that some parts of Scotland may soon move to level 4 restrictions, this will inevitably further heighten concerns over school safety and will prompt consideration of industrial action by our members, if schools are forced to remain fully open when staff feel it is unsafe to do so.”

Mr Flanagan added: “The EIS has repeatedly said that schools remaining fully operational cannot come at the expense of teacher and pupil wellbeing. Blended and remote learning models are increasingly being adopted in other countries to stem increases in Covid infection.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to rethink its stance, in light of the rising infection levels, particularly if some areas do move into level 4 in the near future.”