Reopening Schools Advice

Created on: 08 Mar 2021 | Last modified: 06 Apr 2023

Whilst it is good news that infection levels continue to fall, with the test positivity now below 5% for a fortnight – a WHO test of whether a virus is "under control", the EIS has continued to press for a cautious approach to school reopening as we have seen in the Christmas period how quickly infection levels can soar.

With Scotland's "R" figure currently between 0.7-0.9 there is little headroom to play with.

The EIS believes that there needs to be a genuine review of emerging data before any phase is finally green lighted. The caveat around the timetable, set out by the Scottish Government, of continued progress around suppression of community levels of infection has to be held to. 

The Phase 2 announcement last week of all of P4-P7 to return and all S1-S6 to have some level of face-to-face teaching,  was a Scottish Government decision and not an agreed outcome at CERG (Covid Education Recovery Group).

The EIS view remains that we wish to see Primary schools return with smaller class sizes to tackle potential aerosol transmission and we wish any Secondary return to prioritise S4-S6, with physical distancing in place, in an effort to boost the qualifications process.

We also wish to see medical grade face coverings made available for staff, improved ventilation processes, and we had pressed on vaccination priority for education staff.

The revised guidance which has been issued today by the Scottish Government, therefore, is not an agreed output although we will push for those mitigations included within it to be implemented in full. The introduction of physical distancing between pupils in Secondary schools and the wearing of face coverings, for example, are welcome and should be applied rigorously.

Teacher and Senior Phase pupil take up of the twice weekly Lateral Flow Tests has been strong, and the figures are now included in the weekly PHS Dashboard data updates. The Government also announced today an extension of twice weekly Lateral Flow Testing to all secondary pupils, post Easter.

Updated health and safety guidance on the reopening of schools will be issued to School Reps this week. Given the increased awareness of aerosol transmission associated with the new variant, all risk assessments need to be updated.

A particular workload challenge has been raised by Government's insistence that Secondary schools need to provide some level of face-to-face teaching for all S1-S6 pupils, maintain provision for children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable, and, also, provide remote learning for those not in school!

EIS advice is very clear – teachers cannot deliver full time in-school teaching and sustain remote learning platforms simultaneously. For the hours that teachers are class committed within a working week, they cannot also be engaged in remote provision and where teaching is being provided across both modes of delivery, there must be sufficient time allocated for preparation and marking for both, within the parameters of the 35-hour week.

This is consistent with the advice issued previously around P3/P4 composite classes.