Teaching union raises concerns ahead of schools returning

The Educational Institute of Scotland has written to Depute First Minister John Swinney to highlight its concerns regarding plans to reopen schools next week.

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 7:50 am
With schools in Scotland due to return next week, the EIS has raised concerns over issues such as phsyical distancing, class sizes, coronavirus testing, and staff who have been shielding.
With schools in Scotland due to return next week, the EIS has raised concerns over issues such as phsyical distancing, class sizes, coronavirus testing, and staff who have been shielding.

In the letter, general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “I write to you in order to raise some significant concerns regarding the now published Guidelines for the reopening of schools. You will recall that I raised at the CERG (COVID Education Recovery Group) meeting of July 24, the EIS view that whilst the Guidelines represented the generality of where agreement was possible, they nonetheless fell short from an EIS perspective in significant areas.”

The letter also raises concerns in areas such as phsyical distancing, class sizes, coronavirus testing, and staff who have been shielding.

The letter highlights that the Scottish Government guidance includes an “exhortation to move to smaller classes to support physical distancing where possible, without specification as to how that was to be done. The inherent contradiction in urging such a significant mitigation but failing completely to instruct its implementation is a major concern.”

The letter also calls for “The strongest mitigations possible in place and erring on the side of caution particularly where there is conflicting or emerging evidence in relation to the behaviour of the virus and its capacity for transmission among and by children and young people. These should include specific physical distancing guidelines for pupils.”

On testing, the EIS added: “We would urge that further consideration be given to a more proactive approach to supporting teacher and staff confidence that they are working in Covid-secure schools, by providing asymptomatic access to regular testing.”

Regarding staff who have been shielding, the letter continued: “Teachers who have been shielding for the past three or four months  under Scottish  Government direction, are now concerned that next week they could be back in front of a full class of pupils. This seems to be an enormous leap and one which does not sit well with the First Minister’s warning to those who had been shielding until August 1st, about continuing to be especially cautious.”

The letter also calls for further action to ensure safety: “The EIS welcomes the fact that Scotland appears to have successfully suppressed the virus at this point in time; however, we would not wish to see the reopening of schools act as a catalyst to a resurgence. That means we must ensure that school buildings are Covid-secure environments. Across the globe we are witnessing how quickly things can deteriorate. Teachers, pupils, and parents have every reason to be anxious about schools reopening. Addressing the concerns raised in this letter would go some way to offering reassurance.”

The union is surveying its members to seek views on these issues and steps that should be taken to ensure safety.