Teachers are demanding the urgent introduction of blended learning as measures aimed at containing coronavirus in schools are routinely breached and not enough to keep teachers and pupils fully safe.

A new survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, reveals that guidance stipulating a two-metre distance between themselves and students was impossible to follow consistently due to large class sizes and the demands of the job.

Survey respondents said they felt unsupported when challenging pupils who are not following Covid advice, with behaviour increasingly difficult to manage.

There was also concern about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). The survey, which gathered thousands of responses, found those with underlying physical or mental health conditions had been feeling especially vulnerable.

Amid high levels of anxiety among pupils and teachers, there was clear support from those working in level four areas to move to blended learning.

One respondent said: “On the surface, the school seems to be implementing procedures but nothing is enforced if pupils do not comply.

“It is impossible, due to pupil behaviour, to stay two metres away at all times as circulating [the] room is necessary for any teaching and learning to take place in some classes.

“Pupils have no regard for staying two metres away and often refuse to wear masks. Getting them to sanitise hands etc is a chore in itself. Losing battle as government are saying that we can’t do anything if they don’t wear masks.

“Feel like safety of teachers and other school staff is of no importance to government, no PPE provided and expected to mix with 150-plus pupils a day. Is it going to take deaths before we are taken seriously?”

In a sign of mounting anger, the EIS local association in Glasgow has opened a consultative ballot of members, saying the city council had rejected a request to shift teaching and learning to remote online platforms before and after the Christmas period.

It added that the authority had further failed to consider moves to blended or remote learning as a consequence of schools operating in a level four area.

If there is a mandate to declare a formal trade dispute, this will be made before the EIS decide on a further consultative ballot on industrial action.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are committed to working with our staff and professional associations to make our schools and nurseries as safe as possible during these challenging times and in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic.”

Calls for remote or blended learning come after it was announced that all secondaries and further education colleges in Wales will move online from Monday in an effort to reduce coronavirus transmission.

And, south of the Border, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said mass testing would be rolled out to high school pupils in the worst-affected areas of London, Kent and Essex.

Meanwhile, the EIS has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as it launches a new social media campaign to highlight teachers’ concern about school buildings remaining open even in areas with high levels of Covid-19 infection.

It also published the first of a series of briefing papers which highlight staff worries.

In the letter, General Secretary Larry Flanagan says: “You will be aware EIS members have been clear in supporting the priority of keeping schools open... but not at all costs.”

He adds: “Teachers are working in crowded classrooms where social distancing is not possible, often with inadequate cleaning supplies and protections. Schools are not Covidfree environments and current mitigations are not keeping staff or pupils safe enough. Mounting workload and the stress of working under such conditions is having a significant impact on the mental health and resilience of our education workforce.”

Mr Flanagan continues: “I would ask that moving forward your Government does more to acknowledge, and address, the real fear and anxieties which exist in schools.”

The EIS also wrote to all Directors of Education and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, calling for a rethink on their refusal to move to remote learning around the Christmas holiday period.

A Government spokeswoman said: “The safety guidance on reducing the risks of coronavirus (Covid-19) in schools includes robust measures to help protect teachers, pupils and the whole school community. The Health and Safety Executive provided very positive feedback on the way schools are implementing that guidance. There is no current direct evidence that transmission within schools plays a significant contributory role in driving increased rates of infection among children and ONS data has shown no evidence of any difference between the positivity rates of teachers and other school staff, relative to other worker groups.”