17 December 2021

Created on: 17 Dec 2021 | Last modified: 20 Dec 2021

Season's Greetings

Message from the General Secretary

Dear Colleagues, 

This is not the end of the year we were hoping for but nonetheless I hope that you will be able to enjoy a break over the festive period and to have time with family and friends. Thank you for your tireless efforts to keep education going in the face of all the challenges the last 12 months have presented. Here’s to a better year in 2022!

Larry

EIS Salaries Committee rejects revised Pay Offer – Ballot to open in January

The following revised offer on pay from the Employers’ Side of the SNCT was received on 13 December:

1% from 1 April 2021, followed by 1% on January 2022 (compound interest at end of pay period 2.01%) with a £100 unconsolidated payment.  This applies to all SNCT pay points although there is a £800 pay cap on those earning £80K and above.

The EIS Salaries Committee met on 16 December and decided to consult members on the offer through a consultative ballot. The Committee, unanimously, also agreed to recommend to members rejection of the revised pay offer.

The Salaries Committee concluded that the revised offer:

  • Seriously undervalued the role of teachers in the circumstance of the pandemic

  • Failed to take into account inflationary trends

  • Paid no regard to the ongoing excessive workload, stress and low morale being experienced by EIS members

  • Ignored the critical role of teacher well-being as a prerequisite for education recovery.

Accordingly, a consultative ballot of members will open early in the New Year.

It has taken Scottish Government and COSLA over 9 months to make this offer – indeed we are only weeks away from starting discussions on the April 2022 award.

In recommending rejection of this latest revised offer, therefore, the Salaries Committee is of the view that a clear message from members rejecting the offer and demanding a fair pay outcome for teachers and associated professionals is required to leverage further progress.

Further information on the ballot will be issued in due course.

Covid Update

As you are aware the emergence of the Omicron variant has created fresh challenges and guidance for us all.  At the moment, the number of Omicron cases in schools is clearly rising as a result of the increased transmissibility of the new variant.

The Scottish Government has issued updated guidance today, Friday, for implementation at the start of next term, which will tighten and reintroduce some mitigations. It can be found be here.

In many areas this is a return to pre summer guidance and in other areas it is a reinforcing of existing messages.

As ever, guidance updates should trigger a revisiting of current risk assessments.

Changes to Test and Trace

Initially, PHS was treating any identified Omicron case in schools as a higher risk scenario requiring 10 days self-isolation for identified close contacts, irrespective of vaccine status. That position has now changed in relation to pupils, with a reversion to children being treated as at lower risk with close contacts only being required to self-isolate if directed to do so by PHS. The one exception is that where there is a household infection, all members of the household will require to self-isolate for 10 days.

Critical National Infrastructure

The Guidance includes details of teacher exemption from self-isolation under the Critical National Infrastructure, which teachers are now deemed to be part of.

By way of background, you may be aware of a letter which SG and COSLA issued to Directors of Education to coincide with the FM’s statement on Tuesday of this week.

This was neither shared nor discussed with the EIS and we have made clear to SG that its unilateral issuing was a communication failure which only serves to heighten concern and stress amongst teachers. This is not an area where the EIS is in agreement with SG.

The consequence of this definition, which applies elsewhere and is not specific to schools, is that in some circumstances teachers may be exempted from “self-isolation” rules. The letter / Guidance sets out the conditions in which local authorities may use such an exemption and allow teachers not to “self-isolate” despite being identified as a close contact.

Teachers cannot be forced or required to do this, but they can in certain circumstances “volunteer” to do so, essentially to keep schools open.

The EIS has a clear view that Health and Safety protocols are not based on voluntarism – they should be based on what is the safest course of action and clearly self-isolating when identified as a close contact, is a safer option than attending school even if daily LFTs are taken.

Further, self-isolation is not for the protection of the individual but to prevent further spread. The EIS is concerned, therefore, that “volunteers”, irrespective of their motivation, may be putting colleagues and even pupils at risk by attending school when they have been directed to self-isolate.

Unlike some critical workers whose absence from work is irreplaceable, teachers and schools can provide temporary continuity of education through remote learning.

The EIS advice, therefore, is that members should self-isolate when identified as a close contact. 

Guidance has been issued to LA secretaries for discussion with Local Authorities to ensure that teachers are not unduly pressurised under this new arrangement.

Members should seek support from their school rep and/or LA Secretary, in the event of circumstances arising which need to be challenged.

Further and Higher Education

As the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 presents renewed challenges for FE and HE, the Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Skills, Jamie Hepburn, has written to all institutions asking for a review of plans for increased face to face teaching in the new year. The EIS has voiced concerns regarding the plans of some institutions in representations to the Scottish Government and the intervention of the Minister, at this concerning stage of the pandemic, is welcome.

In a letter to all principals, Mr Hepburn has asked institutions to step up their mitigations against COVID-19; such as introducing additional steps to improve ventilation in learning spaces, limiting in person contact and postponing in person events on campus until the end of January at the earliest.

Members concerned about their institution’s approach to COVID-19 mitigations are encouraged to contact their branch officials in the first instance. As 2022 approaches, it is clear that the safety of staff and students must take precedence over plans for increased on campus learning.

Updated advice for pregnant workers

On 16 December, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued updated guidance in which it called on pregnant workers to come forward for the COVID-19 vaccinations. 

On the same day, the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, Professor Gregor Smith, issued a letter “…strongly advising pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccination as the best way to protect themselves and their baby from serious illness. The JCVI have also advised that pregnant women can get the COVID-19 booster.”

Information on the updated guidance and a copy of the letter from the Chief Medical Officer can be found on our website.