Headteachers and Depute Headteachers from across Scotland have shared their extreme disappointment at the Scottish Government’s decision not to allow schools to move to remote learning as a means of protecting the health of staff, pupils and their families in the final week before Christmas.
A meeting of the EIS Headteacher (HT) and Depute Headteacher (DHT) Network, held this morning, heard first-hand testimony from HTs and DHTs over the severe additional workload pressure that has been placed on school management teams as a result of COVID contact tracing requirements whenever a pupil or staff member tests positive for the virus.
Headteacher and Network Convener Lorraine McBride said, "The COVID pandemic has had a severe impact in our schools and has created huge stresses on everyone within our communities."
"Quite apart from the impact on the physical health of many teachers and students, there has also been a severe impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Added to this has been the huge additional workload burden generated by the demands of the contract tracing system, which frequently interrupts weekend and evenings on top of taking up swathes of time during the school day that should be being spent on other essential priorities."
"Whenever there is a positive case linked to a school, this creates a demand on SMTs to quickly track, trace and isolate every pupil and staff member who has come into close contact with the infected person. This is additional workload, over and above the many usual demands on SMT’s time, and it has been imposed upon us with little or nothing in the way of tangible support."
Ms McBride continued, "It is concrete support that we need – not just fine words from the Scottish Government or our employers telling us how much they appreciate us. Many HTs and DHTs have been left absolutely devastated by the Scottish Government’s decision not to allow schools to close their buildings early and move to remote learning in the final week before Christmas."
"This decision means that, where positive cases are identified late, SMTs may be expected to deliver or support contact tracing work over the Christmas period. The Scottish Government’s decision also significantly increases the risk of pupils and staff taking the virus into their homes, or into the homes of potentially vulnerable family members, during the festive period."
Ms McBride added, "All we we're asking for was for school buildings to close a few days early, in order to protect us all and our families. Education would have continued via remote learning and we were absolutely not asking for extra holidays, as has been falsely claimed elsewhere."
"In failing to take a small, common sense, step to protect teachers, pupils and their families, the Scottish Government is risking what little goodwill remains amongst a teaching profession that has been worn down to the point of physical and mental exhaustion over this past year."