EIS Welcomes Clarity on School Re-Openings, but Warns Challenges Remain

The EIS has welcomed the clarity provided by the planned re-opening of Scotland's schools in August but has highlighted that significant challenges remain over managing this effectively.

The EIS has consistently called for three conditions to be met before schools reopen: full test trace and isolate capacity to be established; a programme for implementing operationally in schools all public health advice e.g. physical distancing; and demonstrable evidence that the virus is under control e.g. a lower R figure and steady reductions in new cases. These remain the yardsticks which must be applied.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on schools, pupils and teachers over the past months."

"Our members will welcome the clarity provided by the First Minister's announcement today, and the clear statement that schools will not re-open until after the summer and only if health conditions allow."

"This will provide valuable time to allow schools to prepare for what will be a very different learning environment, with physical distancing requiring smaller class sizes and schools delivering a blended approach of part time in-school learning and part time remote learning for most pupils."

Mr Flanagan added, "The EIS has worked constructively with the Scottish Government and with local authorities throughout this crisis and will continue to do so in the best interests of learners and teachers."

"There is a strong shared commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of everyone in the school community. Delivering a new blended learning approach is potentially the biggest curriculum challenge of this century, however, and it will require significant commitment from all parties to make it work."

Mr Flanagan referred to the initial analysis of a recent EIS survey, which more than 26,000 teachers across Scotland responded to, which highlights some of the challenges that schools continued to face.

93% of teachers believed that clarity over how teaching and learning will be delivered in the next academic year was crucial. 77% believed that there was a critical need for adequate time to prepare for the delivery of a more 'blended' approach to learning – an acute challenge if staff are also supporting remote learning and hub provision.

Teachers also warned of some of the challenges associated with home learning, particularly for those pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds –  the majority citing digital poverty as a barrier for pupils: 63% citing the lack of access to suitable technology and 57% the lack of internet access at home as issues creating barriers for pupils.