UNION leaders have said they are “alarmed” by the return of staff and pupils to schools in Clydebank – and called for it to be postponed.

Unison, EIS, Unite and GMB issued a joint statement as school staff returned from June 8 and buildings open for pupils transitioning from June 15.

Staff returned from June 8, and buildings opened last Monday for pupils transitioning from pre-school to primary school and from primaries to secondaries.

All pupils are currently scheduled to return in West Dunbartonshire from August 12 but the unions said the proposals had been rushed and without proper risk assessment as the country tries to restart from the coronavirus pandemic. Similar concerns were raised by the EIS union last month.

But last night West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) insisted they were following national guidance and advice.

Union officials Margaret Wood, of Unite, David Scott of GMB, James Halfpenny and Mick Dolan of EIS, and Val Jennings of Unison, wrote to the council saying: “The Joint Trade Unions (JTU) are alarmed that these proposals are being rushed through with a focus on staff returning to premises with no properly consulted risk assessment, Covid-specific risk assessments or planning and protocols in place as per Scottish Government guidelines.

“We are aware that members in nurseries were advised to return to premises on Monday, June 8. This timescale was not agreed and should not have gone ahead due to consultation with the trade unions being at an early stage.

“The JTUs are also concerned that members in schools have been contacted to return to work despite having childcare or caring responsibilities for someone shielding. Currently guidelines are to work from home unless you are an essential worker.

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The union officials said they had not had “satisfactory reassurance” over three key issues.

The first was that head teachers were given the task of overseeing risk assessments, but for which they had “little or no expertise”.

There was also no detail around cleanliness and infection control.

And the unions said there is “no confidence in the testing or contact tracing in place” for those showing symptoms.

They added that West Dunbartonshire’s high rate of Covid-19 infections added to worries.

The JTU said: “The Joint Trade Unions require specific information on the rate of infection within West Dunbartonshire in order to make informed decisions.

“There must be clear evidence produced by WDC of low numbers of infection within the community.”

A WDC spokeswoman said: “Schools and nurseries across the country are reopening to staff and transitioning pupils in June as outlined by the Scottish Government and we continue to adhere to all national guidance and advice for the wellbeing of everyone in our community.

“The closure of schools has had a detrimental impact on our young people and we are hugely grateful to our staff for their efforts throughout this pandemic.

“We have engaged extensively with our trade unions since March, meeting weekly to consult and share our plans, and are committed to continuing to work in partnership to ensure as many pupils can safely return to school as possible.

“All required procedures are in place to enable small groups of pupils to safely attend from this week and further work is being undertaken to prepare for the return of all pupils in August.

“The cleaning and infection control measures which have operated successfully in our hubs since March will be deployed across all our buildings during June and help inform our plans for August.”