The EIS has today (Wednesday) published a report highlighting the views of Headteachers (HTs) and Depute Headteachers (DHTs) in relation to planning for the re-opening of Scotland’s schools. Last month, the EIS published a report following a national survey in which more than 26,000 teachers took part. This new report focuses solely on the views of school senior management teams, based on more than 1500 responses from HTs and DHTs.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Headteachers and Depute Headteachers across Scotland have faced huge challenges in the face of COVID-19. From working to establish new methods of education delivery, to setting up and managing Hub provision, and to ensuring adequate support for the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff, senior management teams have experienced many unique pressures in recent months. It speaks to the dedication and commitment of Headteachers and Depute Headteachers that they have risen to these challenges to support teaching staff and young people across Scotland during the lockdown.”

Lauding the work that had been undertaken by staff, one survey respondent said, “I have been humbled and so very, very proud of the way my staff rose to the challenge of delivering a curriculum from their home with some of them also volunteering at the hub and juggling their own family commitments. The dedication they have shown to their classes at this time has been phenomenal.”

But other respondents highlighted the difficulties presented by the current situation, including one who said, “The pandemic is a uniquely stressful situation in itself. Working from home has added significantly to that stress as every day presents new challenges. Human interactions are at the core of teaching and this is a huge support which is unavailable at this time.”

Many other respondents also highlighted the substantial additional workload pressures that they have experienced and that have been placed on teaching staff. For many members, as indicated by the survey, their workspace is not separate from the rest of the home, and therefore accounts of working well beyond the working day, and finding it difficult to switch off, are common. A large number of Headteachers and Deputes identified a lack of clarity about what is to happen over the coming year as a source of stress, alongside childcare and shielding responsibilities. These findings highlights the ever-present need to support the health and wellbeing of all teachers, including senior school leaders, as well as managing expectations from all parties about what is to be expected from teaching staff and senior teams.

Concerns were expressed too in relation to  the mental wellbeing of pupils, around  maintaining physical distancing in schools, the difficulties in ensuring that schools are being sufficiently cleaned to reduce the risk of infection, and on a variety of issues that can impact on pupils’ home learning – including challenging home circumstances, lack of ICT (Information & Communications Technology) equipment to access online resources, poverty, and a range of additional support needs.

Commenting, Larry Flanagan said, “Senior management teams are now engaged in detailed planning for the safe re-opening of schools. As the results of this survey indicate, Headteachers and Deputes have identified many challenges that must be overcome to enable this and the move to a blended approach to happen. School senior management teams have a huge responsibility in terms of their duty of care to staff and pupils alike, and this is clearly reflected in their significant concerns over the potential physical,  mental health and educational impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Over 90% of HT & DHT members said that greater clarity over how the next academic year of teaching will be delivered would be the most critical factor in  building their confidence  as they plan to address the many challenges of next session. The next most critical element was having time to prepare, followed by support from their local authority. Each of these elements must be incorporated into the planning for the 2020/2021 session to ensure senior managers, teachers, and other relevant education staff can deliver a blended approach to learning, with confidence.

Click here to access a copy of the survey report focusing on Headteacher and Depute Headteachers.