More school staff recruited to build ‘resilience’ during Covid-19 crisis

More than 1,400 teachers and support staff have been recruited across Scotland to help schools cope with the challenges of coronavirus – with hundreds more expected to join them in the coming weeks.

The Scottish Government announced the recruitment – which has come at a cost of £80 million – as it emerged almost 4,000 pupils in the Lanarkshire area have had to self-isolate in the last month.

The region has been one of the worst affected by the virus in Scotland, with reports saying 1,999 pupils in the South Lanarkshire Council area have had to isolate at home while 375 tested positive for the disease.

In North Lanarkshire, a reported 2,000 pupils had to self-isolate and 200 were confirmed as having the infection.

Education Secretary John Swinney said schools are facing a “challenging situation”, but he insisted it is safe for youngsters to be in class.

Education Secretary John Swinney said schools are safe (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

He also said that while attendance levels are lower than last year, only a “very small proportion of positive cases” of Covid-19 have been linked to education.

Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “There is a challenging situation in our schools. But our teaching staff have done an incredible job in making sure that full-time education has been available for young people in Scotland since August 11.

“We’re generally seeing attendance by pupils at just about 90%, now the average in Scotland last year was 93% over the whole of the year. Obviously there is a degree of reduction because of Covid.

“In terms of staff attendance, generally we are seeing staff attendance at a very high level, of the order of perhaps 2% to 3% staff absences, it obviously varies in different parts of the country.”

He added contact tracing data indicates about 4%-5% of coronavirus cases “have got some connection with education”, but stressed: “We tend to find those are cases where it has been an external community transmission has happened, there is very little evidence of in-school transmission.

“The fundamental point is our schools are very safe, the mitigation measures we have insisted on being in place are being followed and must be followed in all circumstances to make sure our schools are safe for staff and pupils.”

He was speaking as the Scottish Government said councils across Scotland have recruited 1,250 teachers, with a further 200 expected to join them.

In addition, 155 further support workers have been taken on, with another 100 to follow.

Mr Swinney said: “In June, I made clear that funding would be provided to increase the teaching and support workforce if it was required to meet the current challenges.

“This additional staffing resource will bring much needed resilience to the education system and compensates for any loss of learning suffered by children and young people during lockdown.

“Local authorities are still working through recruitment processes and we expect the numbers recruited to increase as schools continue to assess the needs of children and young people over the coming weeks.”