FMQs: Extra teachers required to keep schools safe 

Scottish Greens Co-Leader Patrick Harvie MSP has called on the First Minister to make funding available to councils for the employment of 3,500 teachers to help support social distancing in schools. 

Earlier this week EIS, the teachers’ union, wrote to the First Minister calling for the extra teachers to, ‘reduce class sizes and make possible physical distancing.’ The funding promised by the Scottish Government would only allow 1,400 teachers to be employed, less than half of what is needed. 

Patrick Harvie MSP said: 

“For schools to remain open, they need to remain safe. One week on from reopening it’s clear that the concerns expressed by teachers and other school staff, as well as parents and pupils, are still very real. In spite of the efforts being made, further urgent action is needed to keep people safe.

“The EIS has this week made a direct plea to the First Minister, saying that 3500 additional teachers are needed to reduce class sizes. So far, the Scottish Government is funding less than half of this. They are also asking that guidance on physical distancing and face coverings be strengthened.

“The evidence is clear that face coverings can reduce the spread of the virus, which is why they’re needed in other crowded indoor spaces. It’s simply not credible to say that transmission just won’t happen in schools, when we know the risk exists everywhere else when social distancing doesn’t happen.

“Since schools opened we’ve seen photos of crowded corridors and canteens, where social distancing clearly isn’t possible. It’s clear that face coverings should be worn in high schools where distancing is simply not possible.” 

Mr Harvie also questioned the First Minister on wider support for local services, asking her to provide a bailout for Glasgow Life, 

“It’s not just education where local services are under pressure as a result of the pandemic.

“Glasgow Life, which runs leisure facilities, libraries and community centres across the city, expects to lose more than £30 million in income this year due to Covid. This will put at risk the future of places like Whitehill Pool, Govanhill Library, and many others. 

“So far Glasgow Life has no plan to reopen almost two-thirds of their venues. These facilities are a ‘lifeline’. The First Minister may even have seen people outside closed libraries in her own constituency, turning up there because the wifi is still switched on, and that’s their only internet access. These facilities are really needed. 

“The uncertainty is affecting those communities, as well as almost 1,000 staff who are currently on furlough. The First Minister must allay those immediate fears and commit to a full-bail-out for Glasgow Life, and similar services across Scotland.”