Coronavirus (COVID-19): closure and re-opening of schools - impact assessment

An assessment of the impact of school closures and their re-opening on groups with protected characteristics and collates the considerations of all of the following - EQIA, FSDA, ICIA and BRIA.

School staff


Returning to school buildings

50) The trajectory of the virus has been such that shielding will be paused from 1 August. We expect that children, young people and staff who are shielding will be able to return to school in August, unless given advice from a GP or healthcare provider not to, and can follow the same guidance as the rest of Scotland.

51) For the teaching workforce and classroom assistants, it will therefore be important for school leaders to consider practical options for these members of the workforce as staff and pupils return to school buildings or how these members of staff may best support home learning, and the proportion of their staff this may affect. The impact of these measures should also be considered in the context of staff wellbeing.

A quarter of the teaching workforce are over the age of 50 and around one in twenty are over the age of 60[37].

a) To support with educational continuity, whilst allowing for teachers to stay at home where necessary, and ensuring teacher workload doesn't grow, local authorities will be supported to identify additional workforce capacity. This may include:

  • Supporting GTCS registered teachers not currently teaching to return to the workforce.
  • Ensuring that supply staff are fully utilised
  • Ensuring that teachers who have not yet secured permanent employment are considered as an integral part of planning

b) The Return to School guidance sets out a suite of important mitigations that local authorities and schools will be asked to implement. These include risk assessments, enhanced cleaning regimes, good hand and respiratory hygiene, ventilation, use of PPE where appropriate, continuous vigilance for symptoms, and surveillance, testing and outbreak management.

c) £50 million has been allocated to support the recruitment of additional teaching staff.

52) For other members of the workforce, including cleaners, catering staff and technicians, similar considerations will need to be taken to ensure staff can return to work safely, with awareness of factors unique to each role taken into consideration. For example, cleaners who have previously worked across more than one school site, may be restricted to one school site to begin with.

a) The Return to School guidance states that risk assessments should be completed that may consider hygiene, ventilation, staff and pupil movement as well as physical distancing, use of PPE where appropriate, continuous vigilance for symptoms, and surveillance, testing and outbreak management.

b) £20 million has been allocated to support local authorities with the additional costs associated with the reopening of schools, including increased cleaning costs and adjustments to school buildings and other learning spaces.


Staff with disabilities

53) It is likely that a higher number of school staff with physical disabilities will need to take precautions about returning to school compared to school staff without a disability.

a) Therefore, guidance on preparing for the new school term highlights that employers should remain mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010, and consider additional support from a wellbeing or occupational health angle if appropriate.

54) For members of staff with additional support needs it will be important for any changes to routine to be clearly communicated.

Staff mental wellbeing

55) Staff suffering with mental ill health may have found school closures to have a greater negative impact on their wellbeing than their peers. The same group of people may be more likely to be anxious about the reopening of schools.


Caring responsibilities

56) Women make up an overwhelming majority of the education workforce with around 77% of all teachers being women, ranging from 64% in secondary schools to 89% in primary schools[38]. Women also generally carry out the majority of childcare, particularly if lone parents, who may be without their usual sources of support.

57) Women who are teachers are therefore more likely to have been juggling caring responsibilities with supporting home learning whilst working from home or whilst working in school hubs. As schools reopen, staff who are parents or carers will be dependent upon childcare being available to enable them to return to previous working patterns themselves.

58) Women who are parents or carers, and who make up the wider education workforce for example learning assistants and cleaners are also likely to be dependent upon childcare being available to enable them to return to their contracted working patterns.

Women's safety and wellbeing

59) There is a risk that there has been an increase in domestic abuse during lockdown. For women impacted by this, a return to the workplace is likely to have a positive impact overall, but support should be available to support these members of staff.

Women's health

60) At any one time, a proportion of the female education workforce will be dealing with the often debilitating effects of the menopause and other menstrual health issues such as endometriosis. Stress – which we know has increased for some as a result of lockdown - can exacerbate a number of the symptoms associated with these conditions and returning to a repurposed school estate where access to toilets might have changed may be challenging. With workplaces moving towards being 'menopause friendly' schools should consider how they offer support in this context.

Gender reassignment

61) Transgender members of the workforce may have experienced delays to gender-affirming treatment due to COVID-19, which could have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing. There is no data available to know how many members of the workforce may be impacted.

Pregnancy and maternity

62) The health impact of COVID-19 on expectant mothers and unborn children is inconclusive at this stage. However a recent TUC report of 3,400 women who are pregnant or on maternity leave found that 1 in 4 had experienced unfair treatment or discrimination and that low-paid pregnant women were more likely to have lost pay during COVID-19[39].

a) Pregnant members of the workforce should continue to follow the latest guidance, and employers should conduct risk assessments.

Returning to work

63) Some members of staff will be returning to the workforce after maternity leave and will not have experienced home learning in the same way as their colleagues. Experts have warned Covid-19 has had a negative impact on maternal mental health beyond that seen in the general population, where reported rates of anxiety have more than doubled. Consideration should be given to their re-induction to the workforce.


Support in the workplace

64) Discourse in the media and on social media during the COVID-19 crisis has included narratives which contribute to racial stereotypes. Schools should be aware of the increased risk of racist incidents or bullying against particular members of staff, as well as the possible impact on the mental wellbeing of staff. Minority Ethnic (ME) communities make up approximately 1.8% of Scotland's teaching workforce[40]. There is evidence to suggest that COVID-19 impacts disproportionately on South Asian communities in Scotland, and insufficient evidence to determine if it does for other ME groups.

a) Therefore guidance on preparing for the new school term highlights that employers should remain mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010, and provide additional wellbeing or occupational health support for example in the form of risk assessments if requested.

Religion or belief

Religious spaces

65) If it is necessary to implement physical distancing, many schools may need to use non-classroom spaces as teaching space.

a) Where rooms are potentially being repurposed, it should be ensured that provision remains available for staff to access religious spaces at expected times of day.


66) With the widely recognised impact of school closures on the wellbeing of pupils and staff, it is likely that staff with a religious role may play a significant role in supporting staff and pupils as schools reopen.

a) The impact of this aspect of the role on the health and wellbeing of those staff should be taken into account when assessing their specific occupational health support needs.

Sexual orientation

67) There are not considered to be any areas of this policy area that could disproportionately impact groups with this protected characteristic

Marriage & civil partnership

68) There are not considered to be any areas of this policy area that could disproportionately impact groups with this protected characteristic.

Socio-economic disadvantage

69) Whilst the closure of schools has caused for some members of staff to be furloughed, which may have decreased their monthly income, it is expected that reopening schools will allow for those people to return to work and to their previous salary.

Island communities


70) When considering the teacher workforce, staff working in rural locations, including on islands, will need to be taken into consideration at a local authority level. This may be a particular issue when a member of staff is required to undertake inter-island travel in order to get to work, if restrictions are required on public transport.

a) The updated Reopening Schools Guidance recognises the particular challenges for island communities in relation to transport and advises local authorities to explore options with local operators.

Gaelic medium education

71) There are 310 FTE GME teachers in Scotland. In line with the general teaching population around a quarter of them are 50 years of age or older[41]. When considering the teacher workforce, GME teachers will also need to be taken into account.



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