As schools across the country closed to mark the International Workers’ May Day holiday, the EIS called for a renewed commitment from national and local government to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for pupils and teachers in the nation’s schools.

As pupils have returned to in-school learning in recent months, the risk of potential spikes in Covid infection has remained a matter of significant concern. Despite falling case numbers and the roll-out of the vaccination programme, a number of schools have experienced clusters of infection amongst pupils and staff. Added to this, workload has soared to ever more excessive levels during the pandemic, with worrying implications for the physical and mental health of teaching staff.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “The return to a more classroom-based model of learning, while welcome, has created significant challenges for schools and, also, increased the potential risk of further Covid spread through school communities. We have already seen a number of outbreaks linked to schools since pupils returned to schools, highlighting the need for continuing vigilance and the rigorous application of appropriate safety mitigations.”

Mr Flanagan continued, “Teachers have been working flat out throughout the Covid pandemic in an extremely stressful and ever-evolving set of circumstances. The additional responsibilities that have been placed on schools during the pandemic, added to already heavy workload burdens, present a very real risk to the mental and physical wellbeing of teachers. The additional workload burden has often been particularly acute on senior promoted post holders, but has impacted on all teachers and in every school sector.”

The EIS continues to argue for additional resources, and additional staff to support schools and teachers in their vital work delivering a high-quality educational experience in extremely challenging circumstances.