Teacher shortages could result in pupils being sent home from school if Covid cases continue to rise, ministers have been warned.
Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said coronavirus mitigations – such as staff and pupils wearing face coverings in secondary schools – should continue to avoid such a situation arising.
The Scottish Government has said the face mask requirement will be in place for “at least six weeks” of the new term, but education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has previously said the rule will be dropped earlier if it can be.
However with coronavirus cases surging since schools went back, Mr Searson suggested mitigations may have to remain in place “for a good deal longer”.
He also said ministers need to consider vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds against the virus, while schools should keep other measures in place such staggered starting times.
He discussed the issues affecting schools on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, after Highland Council education chair John Finlayson said rising Covid cases are “having an impact on service delivery”.
Mr Finlayson said: “I think we will see remote learning, even at this time, where there are situations where schools are struggling for staff, where there’s a high number of pupils at home.”
Asked if there is a risk of Scotland’s schools facing teacher shortages, Mr Searson said: “Most definitely.
“Teachers are going to contract Covid and they therefore will be missing and that is going to be a problem because children will be sent home because the teacher is not there.
“That’s why I think the mitigations are probably going to go on for some time, because if the numbers keep rising I think the Government has got no choice but to go beyond the six weeks they first talked about and actually put the mitigations in place for a good deal longer.”
Teachers are “very concerned” about rising Covid levels, he added.
“It was anticipated the numbers would go up but it is so important that all the mitigations that are in place should continue, and people need to remind themselves that the pandemic is not over and schools should try as much as possible to not only follow the guidance from the Government but go a little bit further as well.”
He said trying to stop children in different year groups mixing at school “is a no brainer”.
He added: “To keep everybody safe we need to make sure that everybody is vaccinated. Ireland are already vaccinating the 12 to 15-year-olds, and have been doing that for a number of weeks, so I think we need to move on that quickly to keep everybody safe.”