Teachers refuse to return to school after summer holidays

NASUWT members demonstrating in June outside the Scottish Parliament about the health & safety concerns in their schools

Teachers at two schools in Scotland are refusing to return to work after the summer holidays until the government can guarantee the sites are safe.

NASUWT members at Buchanan and St Ambrose high schools were expected back at school yesterday, with pupils due to return tomorrow.

But they have concerns over contamination at the schools, which were built on a former landfill site. An independent review found water samples passed drinking water standards and soil samples were “not of concern”.

NASUWT general secretary (acting) Chris Keates said: “Because of the failure of the council and the government to take seriously the concerns of teachers about the health risks of working on the campus, at the end of the last school term the NASUWT implemented strike action to withdraw its members from the site to protect their health and welfare.

“As a result of the action taken by the NASUWT and its members, the government finally conceded  that, as the NASUWT had requested consistently,  a full site survey was necessary to provide up to date test results, not only on the ‘blue water’ but also on all aspects of the campus environment. The NASUWT’s experts are on standby to analyse the report once it is published.

“However, the council and the government should be in no doubt that unless the NASUWT is satisfied that the site poses no risks to health our members will not be returning to work.

“Our members’ summer break has been blighted by the serious stress and anxiety of the concerns about the risks to their own and their colleagues’ health.

“All of our members either have sought or are seeking blood tests. The results already received by one member are of deep concern as they show significantly elevated levels of arsenic. That member’s case is now in the hands of our solicitors who are pursuing personal injury claims against the council on behalf of a number of our members.

“Pending the outcome of the report the union has already put contingency plans in place to continue to protect members. The council has been notified of a period of continuous strike action from the first day of term. This will undoubtedly go ahead if the NASUWT is not satisfied with the report and the council proposes to open the schools as usual.

“The NASUWT will also be looking to the report to answer a number of extremely serious questions about how this situation was allowed to develop in the first place.

“Regardless of what the test results say, all the signs of potential risks to the health and welfare of staff and pupils have been evident for a considerable period of time and yet at every stage it seemed that both the government and the council had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take any action, exacerbating the anxiety of those working on, and using, the site.

“The NASUWT will be looking for the report to, at the very least, lay down clear procedures for timely action when there are potential risks to health and safety in schools.”

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