Teachers and pupils are working in freezing, unclean classrooms amid persistent and growing fears over the safety of Scotland's schools during the coronavirus pandemic, a national staff survey indicates.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country's largest teaching union, said responses from almost 19,000 teachers had also highlighted concerns over whether Covid outbreaks are being recorded accurately.

And responses suggest staff simply do not believe the Scottish Government position that there is no evidence to suggest coronavirus transmission is happening on campuses.

However, a major new report published by Public Health Scotland indicates that education staff and pupils have not been at an increased risk of severe Covid-19 as a result of being in school.

The latest developments come as teachers move towards possible industrial action over school safety and arrangements for remote learning before and after the Christmas break.

On Tuesday it emerged that staff in three local authority areas – Glasgow, Fife and West Dunbartonshire – had voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of declaring a formal dispute, claiming employers are failing to provide a safe working environment for staff in light of the continuing threat from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, staff in Glasgow formally submitted dispute notification to education bosses at the city council.

One secondary school respondent told the EIS: “One third of pupils in the school are not wearing face coverings in corridors and communal areas. 

"Approximately 5% of S4-6 pupils are not wearing face coverings in the classroom. 

"Windows are left opened to ventilate the classroom resulting in the room being cold. The school heating is normally switched off.

"During one school week before the October holiday, over 100 pupils were asked to self-isolate. 

"A number of staff also tested positive for COVID and were off sick. Referred to a letter that there was no evidence of in-school transmission. Utter nonsense and frankly unacceptable.”

On the issue of cleanliness, one primary school respondent said: "I feel there has been a real failure to ensure that enhanced cleaning is done and the promised investment hasn’t materialised.

"We had a member of cleaning staff absent which meant 6 classrooms and the pupil toilets weren’t cleaned for 2 days.

"Teaching and support staff cleaned instead to keep ourselves and the children safe.

"This is a huge issue and, in my opinion, a massive failing on the part of our employer. Staff are buying their own wipes for wiping computers and teaching tables." 

The respondent added: "It’s also incredibly difficult to socially distance in a classroom full of 30 young children.

"All of these things (plus many more) make for a stressful experience every day just now. Staff health needs to be more of a priority.” 

However, the findings of the EIS survey come as a major new Public Health Scotland report, published on Wednesday, suggests teachers and pupils are not at increased risk of severe coronavirus disease.

The PHS summary states: "Data shows that the occurrence of COVID-19 in school pupils and staff across Scotland is consistent with the trends seen in the wider population during the autumn term, such as the rise and fall of infection rates across local authorities and that the proportion of education staff with antibodies for COVID-19 reflects that of the general adult population.

"New analysis also shows that teachers have not been at higher risk of hospitalisation due to COVID-19 than the general population since the return to school.

"Taken together, the reports indicate that education staff and pupils have not been at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 by being in school."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is an anxious time for teachers, families and pupils and we are grateful to all school staff for their dedication and hard work during a very challenging time.

“Reports published today by Public Health Scotland on the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on school staff and young people since August provide a range of new data that collectively shows that schools remain safe and underline the crucial health, wellbeing and educational benefits of children and young people being in school.

“The guidance on reducing the risks of COVID-19 in schools includes robust measures to help protect teachers, pupils and the whole school community. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and listen to any concerns.”