Covid-19 Update

Created on: 18 Mar 2020 | Last modified: 24 Mar 2020

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Following on from my email on Monday, I thought it would be helpful to provide a quick update on developments.

The tea-time announcements by the UK Government on Monday, echoed by the First Minister here in Scotland, significantly raised the ante with their very strict and clear guidelines around social distancing, self-isolation for individuals and family members, use of public transport etc.

These guidelines have made clearer the answers to some of the many questions which members have been asking; for example it is now quite  clear that teachers who are pregnant should be allowed to work from home and those with significant underlying health concerns or care responsibilities for others in that category should be allowed, also,  to either work from home or away from face-to-face teaching.

The FAQs on the website will be updated to reflect strengthened guidance. (We are trying to answer all the email enquires which we have received, where a straight answer is possible, but given the level of correspondence that cannot be done quickly so please keep checking the website for updates.)

The dramatic increase in preventative measures announced this week is based on the rising incidence of infection.

We have been in detailed discussion with the Scottish Government on the implications of this for school closures.

Our view is that irrespective of previous modelling which may have been carried out by science researchers, the time to decide on blanket school closures is now. We have avoided turning this into a public arm wrestle, as that would not be conducive to Scottish society acting collectively and purposefully in common endeavour, which we believe is what is required and desired in order to address the current health crisis. We have been making clear, however, to the Scottish Government that the crisis has deepened, and a decision to close schools is now required.

Progress has been made in our discussions and we are hopeful that an announcement will be made soon.

On the challenge which school closures may bring for parents such as front-line NHS and Care staff, we have suggested that other targeted care solutions should be looked at, as school as a default provision is not a long-term option.

When schools close, and it is now only a matter of timing, we are assuming that the default will be staff working from home. A number of Councils are looking at online learning solutions which may offer some provision, although they most certainly should not be seen as a panacea – equitable access for students is just one challenge.

EIS Guidance around online platforms is being developed.

We have written, also, to Education Scotland to suggest that rather than every Council or school reinventing the wheel in terms of providing learning activities for young people while schools are closed, some national provision would be helpful, perhaps even utilising broadcast channels to engage as many groups of young people as possible.

For staff involved in SQA presentations, you should be aware that there is a contingency group which is meeting regularly, with updates being hosted on the SQA website.

Finally, you may be aware that a number of bodies such as COSLA and GTCS have moved to an online operation to comply as far as possible with health guidelines. From an EIS perspective we hope to keep our buildings open whilst schools are open, but we have taken the step of moving necessary meetings to conference call operations, and cancelling all planned face-to-face  CPD events and routine Committee meetings, whilst we prepare to keep services to members running through an online presence.

These are difficult and worrying times for everyone, colleagues; maintaining as much as we can a sense of common purpose for the common weal will help us navigate our way ahead.

Best wishes,

Larry Flanagan

General Secretary