The first meeting of the EIS national Council for this school year was dominated by continuing concerns over COVID-19 and the need to keep teachers and pupils safe from the risk of infection.

The meeting, held virtually to comply with physical distancing guidelines, heard concerns from teachers and lecturers the length and breadth of Scotland over the current risks to their health and the need for much better measures to protect staff and students.

Council members approved a series of COVID action points that the EIS will take forward, through all appropriate forums, as a matter of urgency.  These include:

  • Seeking clear articulation from the Scottish Government of the triggers that would require local or national school closures, and/or a move to a blended or remote learning model of education.
  • To demand contingency planning for staff previously shielding in the context of rising levels of infection.
  • To continue and intensify the EIS campaign for smaller class sizes, which are essential to enable physical distancing to help keep staff and pupils safe.
  • A renewed call for concrete physical distancing measures facilitated through expansion of the school estate and the employment of additional teachers.
  • To call for clear guidelines from Scottish Government on ventilation and heating in classrooms.
  • To demand stronger guidance and support for ASN pupils and staff, including those in ASN settings.
  • A renewed campaign on tackling the impact of poverty on educational experience.
  • To express a lack of confidence in the SQA handling of the 2020 accreditation process and in the current planning for 2021.

In addition to agreeing the list of action points, Council also approved a Motion proposed by Council member and primary teacher Nicola Fisher (Glasgow) which highlighted grave concern over the rising number of coronavirus cases across Scotland and, in particular, those in schools and educational settings and calling on the EIS  to campaign to secure a wider range of mitigations to protect pupils and staff in schools.

Moving the Motion, Ms Fisher said, “The Scottish Government decision to re-open schools was predicated on low instances of the virus, so the current mitigations in our schools are just not effective given the current increases in the virus across the country.”

Mr Fisher added, “This has led to the current situation where you can only meet one other household and no-one in your own home – but somehow in school classrooms we can have 34 households in a class, with 33 pupils and a teacher. We need to continue to push on these issues and we must be absolutely clear what our campaign is about – keeping our members, and the children in our schools, safe.”

Seconding the Motion, Susan Quinn (EIS local association Secretary for Glasgow) said, "This is a vital Motion that we have in front of us today. It is important that our members are aware of what their elected leaders are doing, on their behalf, to make our schools safe."

"It is incumbent on us, the lay leadership of the union, to take these issues forward on behalf of members. It is crucial that our members see that we are continuing to push for fewer people in classes, to protect their health and wellbeing."