Union Warns Dirty Schools Pose a Health Threat with Survey Reporting Cleaning Cuts

A teaching union has given an alert that unhygienic schools caused by a reduction in cleaning budgets pose a threat to the health of both pupils and staff. Representatives of the union across Scotland in more than 600 schools provided their feedback in an EIS online survey. 80% of the participants indicated that their school had experienced a deterioration in cleanliness arising from budget cuts in the previous three years.

In excess of 100 respondents acknowledged that their classrooms were grimy, with some characterising them as “disgusting” or “filthy”. Approximately 120 people disclosed that they or fellow teachers had tidied up classrooms or another area within the school. 138 respondents highlighted that they had concerns about the sanitation and health in schools from substandard cleaning.

Most schools have an in-house cleaning team but can outsource higher level cleaning.

Cleaners Are Extended, Working Beyond Their Contracted Hours

Survey results found out that the deteriorating hygienic conditions were not the failing of cleaners. Instead, they placed blame on the reduced cleaning time allocated for each room. Other respondents reported that cleaners were working extra hours to ensure classrooms are clean.

In some schools, the union was told, cleaning can be skipped for a number of days. Respondents gave examples of vomit not being cleaned effectively, toilets stinking and not being washed frequently and bins remaining unemptied for days.

Cleaners were also handed cheaper and poorer cleaning materials that were not effective, the survey noted. In some instances, they were directed to clean using only water. Conducive teaching and learning environments for teachers and pupils require tidy schools that are cleaned daily without fail. Cleaners are not given ample time to effectively clean a room. Also, some schools lack back-up to cover for absentee cleaning staff.

Lowering the Regularity or Quality of School Cleaning Services

The EIS survey concludes that over the last three years there is evidence showing a reduction in the number of times cleaning is done and also in the quality of cleaning.

The Health of Staff and Pupils Worsening

This survey found that the health of pupils and teachers has faced a decline due to poor cleaning forcing a minority of teachers to take up the cleaning of their classrooms due to the shoddy cleaning done. 3000 members were asked to participate in the survey with 681 responding. The EIS noted this was a high response rate that allowed significant conclusions to be reached.

Larry Flanagan, the EIS general secretary, said that the findings from the survey were disturbing.

Schools must be thoroughly cleaned at least once a day to ensure proper schooling and teaching surroundings for pupils as well as staff. Reducing cleaning services budgets is putting too much pressure on cleaning staff. Sometimes teachers are being compelled to engage in cleaning classrooms. These cuts have led to poor hygiene in classes leading to an environment that can harbour and spread disease and germs with the likelihood of staff and pupils catching diseases. This situation can lead to increased absenteeism of pupils and staff with a negative impact on both teaching and learning.

The Consequences of Cutting Back on Proper Cleaning On Pupils

In recent events, there has been major rodent and insect infestation and outbreaks of norovirus in schools, which have exposed the drawbacks of making cuts to cleaning services in schools.

A government spokesman has said that it is paramount that local authorities provide safe and clean schools for learning and teaching.

Over the last decade, the number of pupils learning in bad or poor schools conditions has dropped by almost two thirds.