In a letter to parents, Edinburgh’s chief education officer Andy Gray advised parents to ensure children wore extra layers of clothing to stay warm when they return after the mid-term break, October 19-26.
Several schools in the Capital have reported cases in recent weeks, including Juniper Green Primary, nearby Currie Primary and St Mary’s RC primary in Leith, as well as the independent Mary Erskine’s all-girls secondary school.
Scottish Government guidance for schools, issued in August, said: “The opening of doors and windows, where is safe to do so, should be encouraged to increase natural ventilation and also to reduce contact with door handles.”
Edinburgh’s “wrap up warm” advice is directed at both primary and secondary school pupils, although the decision on which windows must be kept open is up to individual schools.
Mr Gray’s letter said: “As our schools resume after the October break, we will continue to ensure the safest possible environment for learning in every school setting. As part of this, classrooms will require to maintain adequate ventilation and, while school heating systems will be fully utilised, it would be wise to consider extra layers of clothing.”
The advice prompted calls from poverty campaigners for more help for low-income families.
John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, said the policy was understandable but highlighted the need for extra support.
"It reinforces the case for additional financial support to be made available to struggling low-income families. They are the ones who have been hardest hit by the economic impact of the pandemic.
"We are calling on the UK Government to increase Child Benefit and the child element of Universal Credit by £10 per week. Here in Scotland, we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce the new Scottish Child Payment, but that won’t actually be rolled out to school-age children until 2022.
"In the meantime all local authorities in Scotland provide a school clothing grant for low-income families of a minimum of £100. We’re urging the Scottish Government and local authorities to work together to provide an additional school clothing grant to help families through the winter and bridge the gap to the roll-out of the Scottish Child Payment. It’s that kind of support that families need to be able to cope with the additional pressures of the pandemic.”
Mr Dickie said schools often had banks of extra uniforms and other clothing available to ensure children had enough to wear.
"There are good examples of uniform swaps and clothing banks where clothing is pooled within schools and children can access that when they need to. It’s important that is done in a way where there isn’t any stigma attached to that. But fundamentally this is about ensuring all our families have adequate resources to be able to equip their children to participate in school in these new circumstances we find ourselves in.”