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77% of teachers do not feel school safe for return: survey

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Pupils from Bloomfield Collegiate School Belfast are back at school today for the first time since March

Pupils from Bloomfield Collegiate School Belfast are back at school today for the first time since March

Pupils from Bloomfield Collegiate School Belfast are back at school today for the first time since March

More than half of teachers in Northern Ireland don't feel prepared to return to their school or college as they reopen to all pupils this week, a survey has suggested.

The NASUWT teachers' union said 58% of those surveyed felt unprepared for the resumption of schools while 89% were stressed and anxious about returning to their school.

A further 77% of teachers admitted that they don't feel it is safe or are unsure if it is safe for pupils to return to school.

Meanwhile, 46% expressed little or no confidence that their school or college will be as safe as possible when they return.

The survey found that 61% of teachers have not been consulted on risk assessments undertaken in their school or college.

The union said there is also a lack of clarity of around provision of PPE equipment, with 31% of teachers not knowing if their school has adequate supplies of hot water and soap, while 19% say there is not enough.

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official for Northern Ireland said the fact that three quarters of teachers don't feel their school is safe for pupils to return is "very concerning".

"Teachers and school leaders have worked hard to prepare their schools for young people to return, yet 61% of teachers have not been consulted on risk assessments undertaken in their school or college," he said.

"Ministers and school employers must do more to reassure the school workforce, parents and pupils that everything possible is being done to minimise viral spread, and that robust procedures are in place should any outbreaks occur."

On Friday, the NASUWT was among six unions who warned MLAs on Stormont's education committee that a "rushed reopening" of schools could result in the "next care home crisis".

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, the Assembly committee chair, says staff must be given the resources and support needed to restart schools safely and the Education Minister Peter Weir still needs to provide clarity in many areas.

"The Minister must expedite the allocation of funding for a number of issues including school cleaning, hygiene materials, additional teaching and non-teaching staff to minimise pupil-staff rations, school adaptations and to create the possibility of remote learning when necessary.

"There must also be urgent clarity around the curriculum specification for this academic year, the need for face coverings and the provision of a helpline for principals and parents to receive detailed guidance when needed," he said.

Belfast Telegraph