Union Warns that a Health Risk is Posed By Dirty Schools as Cleaning Cuts Are Highlighted by Survey

A teaching union warned that cleaning cutbacks have caused dirty schools, which pose a health risk for both staff and students. Schools tend to use in-house cleaning teams but sometimes outsource for bigger tasks such as commercial jet washing services. Union representatives from over 600 Scotland schools participated in an EIS online survey. The results showed that 80% stated that their schools have suffered a decrease in the quality or frequency of cleaning due to budget cuts that have taken place over the past three years.

Over 100 respondents to the survey stated they had dirty classrooms, with some stating they were “disgusting” or “filthy.” Approximately 120 respondents stated that either teacher colleagues or themselves had cleaned their classrooms or other areas in the school. There were 138 responses that expressed concerns about hygiene or health in schools due to the poor cleaning they receive.

Cleaners Are Working Past Their Contracted Hours

Respondents to the survey stressed that the worsening cleanliness conditions were not the fault of the cleaners but were due to the reduction in how much cleaning time they were allocated per room. Some stated that cleaners were working past their contracted hours in an attempt to keep the classrooms clean.

Respondents also informed the union that in some schools there are days that pass where absolutely no cleaning is done. Respondents reported that bins were not emptied on a daily basis, that toilets were not cleaned often enough and smelled, and even vomit was not being cleaned up thoroughly.

The survey also found that cleaners had been provided with less effective, cheaper cleaning products, and were told to just use water in some cases. Schools must be cleaned properly every day to maintain an appropriate teaching and learning environment for staff and pupils. It was said that cleaners were not allocated enough time per room to adequately clean them and that some schools reported that cleaning staff did not have absence cover.

Reduction in the Quality or Frequency of School Cleaning Services

According to the EIS report, the survey produced clear evidence that the quality or frequency of school cleaning services has been reduced over the past three years.

The Health of Staff and Pupils Are Suffering

It was also shown in the survey that the health of pupils and staff appears to have suffered due to the reduced cleaning quality. Further more, a minority of the teaching staff are cleaning their own classrooms. Surveys were sent to aproximately 3,000 members and they received 681 responses. According to the EIS this was a high response rate, which allowed for meaningful conclusions to be made.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, responded that the results of the survey were worrying.

Schools simply must be cleaned properly every day to ensure an appropriate teaching and learning environment for staff and students. Cleaning service cuts are placing a high level of stress on cleaning staff, and in some cases, it is forcing teachers to clean their own classrooms and creates an environment where disease and germs can rapidly spread and seriously impact the health of staff and pupils. This can increase teacher and pupil absences, which has a negative impact on teaching and learning as well as wellbeing.

Consequences of Cuts to Proper Cleaning for Students

Recent occurrences such as infestations of rodents or insects in schools and major norovirus outbreaks have further demonstrated the consequence to cuts of proper cleaning within schools.

A spokesman form the Scottish Government stated that local authorities need to ensure that all school users are provided with clean and safe environments.

Over the past 10 years, the proportion of pupils educated in ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ condition schools has seen a reduction of nearly two thirds.

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