Hundreds of school staff in the north-east have tested positive for Covid-19 since pupils returned to classrooms.
More than 200 education workers, including teachers and other staff, have been diagnosed with the virus after schools reopened in August.
And a total of 1,027 staff have had to isolate due to Covid-19 in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire over the same period, either through testing positive themselves or through being identified as a contact of someone who has.
The statistics, which the Evening Express obtained using Freedom of Information powers, show 174 staff tested positive for coronavirus in Aberdeen, while a further 383 had to isolate after being identified as a contact.
Eighty-seven of those diagnosed were teachers and a total of 113 teaching staff were forced to isolate.
There were 19 cases of Covid-19 among the teaching staff in Aberdeenshire, and 385 had to go into isolation.
Thirty staff working in other roles tested positive in Aberdeenshire schools – and 614 were told to quarantine for 14 days.
The figures cast doubt on claims by Scottish Government ministers, including cabinet secretary for education John Swinney, that there is no increased risk to staff as a result of being in the classroom – even though they often mix with hundreds of pupils a day.
Although it is possible that not all instances of staff coming into contact with someone who had Covid-19 took place in school.
The EIS teachers’ union, which previously branded Mr Swinney’s claims “ludicrous”, said its position had been “vindicated” by the findings.
Ron Constable, the organisation’s Aberdeen City branch secretary, said: “These figures demonstrate there is a possibility of coronavirus spreading in schools.
“Given the number of establishments we have, the number is quite high.
“It vindicates the stance the EIS has taken on this and we would again call for smaller classes so pupils can physically distance.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire branch secretary David Smith spoke of his “concern” at the figures and although he remains in favour of schools remaining open where possible, insisted staff’s health should not be put at risk to do so.
He said: “Aberdeenshire EIS views these figures with some concern and would argue that they reinforce the national EIS position which accepts the need to prioritise the requirement to keep schools open, recognising the role of schools in supporting and nurturing the well-being of young people, but with the very reasonable caveat that this cannot be at the expense of the health and safety of school communities including EIS members and all school staff.
“The EIS locally remain in continual dialogue with Aberdeenshire Council over all aspects of risk assessment and in taking forward any concerns raised by our members at school level.”
Pupils will not return to the classroom at the end of the festive holidays, with remote learning now in place for all except those classed as vulnerable and the children of key workers.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The safety and wellbeing of pupils and school staff is our top priority.
“The safety guidance on reducing the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools includes robust measures to help protect teachers, pupils and the whole school community. The Health and Safety Executive provided very positive feedback on the way schools are implementing that guidance and we are monitoring the situation closely, along with emerging scientific evidence.
“We are committed to taking forward a number of pathfinder testing programmes, with the aim of developing a scalable, sustainable approach to asymptomatic testing of school staff at the earliest opportunity. We are working closely with a number of interested local authorities and schools to ensure these testing pilots run successfully and provide as much useful learning as possible.
“These initiatives are in addition to current routes for asymptomatic testing of school staff. If school staff are concerned that they have been at risk of infection, they can request a test without symptoms.
“We continue to have discussions with teachers, trades unions, local authorities, parents and young people as we move through the coronavirus crisis.”