Survey highlights teachers’ health & safety concerns after reopening of schools in September

Ninety per cent of teachers surveyed by the INTO noted an increase in their September workload following the reopening of schools, with findings of the October poll highlighting health and safety concerns.

A survey commissioned by the INTO’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) was conducted in early October to assess the feelings of members one month after the reopening of schools. The electronic survey of a random selection of 4,000 members had a response rate of 18.5 per cent.*

The INTO has worked continuously over recent weeks to address areas of concern for members. In the weeks since the survey was conducted, the INTO has focused on key issues while results have also highlighted areas where further support is needed.

The survey found that top concerns included:

  • Safety of family members
  • Lack of space for physical distancing
  • Teacher’s own safety
  • Health & well-being of pupils (following lockdown)

Other notable findings from September included:

  • A total of 25% of respondents were ‘happy to be going back’ to school; 29% were ‘slightly apprehensive’ and 19% were ‘apprehensive’; 24% were either ‘anxious’ or ‘very anxious’.
  • When asked ‘How do you feel now you have been back in school for a while?’; 3% of respondents replied that they felt ‘safe and secure’; 38% felt ‘safe but alert’; 34% admitted they still felt a ‘bit apprehensive’.
  • 80% of respondents felt that their school was either ‘very prepared’ or ‘prepared’ for the new academic year in September.
  • 77% of respondents stated that they were confident about supporting pupils’ well-being.
  • An overwhelming majority of teachers (80%) agreed that SEN children’s learning had been impacted more than others during school closure.

Responding to concerns

The INTO has made progress in many relevant areas in recent weeks in an effort to address key concerns, with a number of health-and-safety supports secured, including:

  • Regular INTO meetings with NPHET
  • The publication of weekly public-health data
  • Priority COVID-19 testing for teachers
  • Dedicated HSE schools teams
  • A mid-term review, leading to contact-tracing improvements and revised case definitions
  • Updated guidance on ventilation

INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

We felt it was important to commission this survey in order to gauge members’ thoughts regarding ongoing issues. Measuring their feelings after their first month back in schools provides a good indication of what progress has been made and where further support is needed.

We feel it is particularly notable that 90% of respondents stated that their workload had increased since they returned to school. This is indicative of the shoulder-to-the-wheel determination shown by our members. Teachers, and in particular principals and school leaders, have worked tirelessly to get schools open. Their efforts deserve proper recognition and tangible support from Government going forward in order to ensure schools can stay open safely.

It is also a concern to see that 80% of respondents agreed that SEN children’s learning had been impacted more than others. This is further evidence of the need to support children with Special Needs Education

We will continue to listen to our members and advocate on their behalf before, during and after the Christmas break, so they can feel safe and supported in school.”

Read the full report and survey findings: ‘Teachers’ experience of being back at school following recent school closure: INTO Survey October 2020’

*4,000 members randomly selected from database; 3,881 had valid email addresses & had opted to receive emails. 720 responses were received: a response rate of 18.5%.