26th January 2021

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Covid Update

Lockdown

The move to lockdown had been precipitated by the emerging data on the impact of the new variant and the implication that unchecked it would lead to the NHS being overwhelmed by the end of January. The main purpose of the Scottish Government in closing schools was to make the lockdown as effective as possible, an argument the union has used around Level 4 and high community infection levels.  

The EIS is concerned, however, about the implications of the new variant and has raised the need to analyse the evidence around its potential impact on children, particularly regarding their role in transmission chains, as critical to how and when face-to-face teaching might be resumed.

The current planning assumption of the Scottish Government is that any future reopening is likely to be on a potential phased return, but even that could only happen when community infection levels are significantly lower and with the new evidence in schools being factored in e.g. physical distancing between pupils may become a required mitigation.

The next fortnightly review of remote learning is planned for the start of February, with the current remote learning arrangements in place until at least mid-February  

Vaccine and Testing

The EIS had raised directly with the First Minister the inclusion of staff in ASN settings in the first roll-out of the vaccine, on the basis of ASN schools being more akin to clinical settings.

The First Minister was sympathetic and reported this was being actively considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI), at a UK level.

We are pushing, also, for teachers to be offered the vaccine as part of the 2nd phase of vaccination (beyond the clinically vulnerable) on the pragmatic basis that if the Scottish Government wishes to prioritise schools re-opening, vaccinating teachers and other school staff is one way to achieve that safely.

Pilots are underway around Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing of staff, through a home kit. As an enhanced mitigation around schools re-opening, this would provide teachers with the ability to have weekly tests (an EIS demand from an earlier Council decision).

Remote Learning:

Initial feedback from various groups at CERG (Covid Education Recovery Group), is that the remote learning offer has improved significantly from the emergency situation of the first lockdown. EIS advice on effective pedagogical approaches can be found here.

At the insistence of the Scottish Government, Education Scotland (HMIE) plans to survey around 5% of schools weekly on their remote learning offers.  Although it is claimed that this will be a light touch sampling exercise not involving teachers directly, the EIS has made clear that we believe this to be an unnecessary approach.

Members are reminded about the importance of looking after their own well-being in lockdown by seeking to control workload and separating out work and home life. Advice can be found here.

Supply

The EIS has called for every unemployed teacher seeking work to be signed up on at least a temporary contract (Scottish Government has announced an additional £45 million for local authorities around remote learning so there is cash there to do this.)

If we have a phased return, there could be a need to employ more teachers to cover both class teaching and blended learning but even now teachers who are available should be signed up to help with those pupils from more vulnerable backgrounds to ensure that they have an individual Mentor/Tutor.

We are surveying on members seeking supply work to identify the scale and locality of available teachers.

SQA

Lockdown clearly creates challenges around the alternative assessment model, which are likely to grow the longer remote learning is in place.

The key message is for the current focus to be on learning – members should not be looking to carry out summative assessments online.

Clearly a full range of options require to be looked at, which might mean a lighter touch quality assurance system from the SQA. There is broad agreement, however, that awards need to be evidence-based, which is an important safeguard for professional judgement.

The EIS supports the pushing back of estimates to as late in June as possible, to maximise in-school time.

Education News

A section dedicated to COVID related Education Advice can be found on the EIS Website here. The Education and Equality Department has updated the following Guidance to reflect current changes Advice on Blended and Remote Teaching and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic and  Working from Home Guidelines.

Further & Higher Education Sectors’ New Covid Guidance

New “temporary lockdown guidance” has been issued by the Scottish Government to supplement current Covid-19 guidance for Further & Higher Education sectors, and accommodation blocks. This may be found here.

The new guidance states that, “The number of people on campus and students returning to term-time accommodation should be kept to an absolute minimum” and makes it clear that “employers [should] take all reasonable steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus. This includes supporting staff to work from home for those roles that can be undertaken remotely.”

The new guidance also strengthens the obligation on all colleges and universities to consult on Covid working arrangements, including the staff working on-site, with the institution’s trade unions. The Government has also issued strengthened guidance as to what is defined as the “restricted blended learning” that can take place face-to-face in colleges and universities. This may be found here

Any problems with your working arrangements should be raised with your Branch Secretary in the first instance.

Council Nominations 2021/22

The EIS Council is the principal executive committee of the EIS. It meets around five times a year, usually in Edinburgh, and at the AGM.

Nomination forms for members interested in standing for election to Council for 2021/22 are available from your Local Association Secretary, Branch Secretary or can be downloaded from the MyEIS section of the website.

Members working in the Independent Sector

Due to Stuart Brown’s appointment as National Officer for Further Education, members who work within the Independent Sector (including NEU joint members) should contact their EIS Area Officer if employment advice or representation is required.

Higher Education Dispute

The ULA Executive has decided to declare a dispute with Universities' employers regarding their pay freeze for 2020/21. All other HE trade unions have declared similar disputes after extensive remote negotiations have led to very little movement on the pay offer. A dispute resolution process will now commence. Any future decision on action will depend on the employers' response to our dispute and will be considered at future ULA Executive meetings.

HNVQ Update for College Lecturers

The SQA has formed a Steering Group and a separate Working Party to consider this year’s Higher & National Vocational Qualifications. The EIS has been invited to both groups and the Steering Group has issued the following HNVQ update.

Our Wellbeing Matters Programme

Starting on the 16th February, each week of the programme will explore a different aspect of wellbeing and how to create and sustain some good practices that will make a positive difference to how you think and feel about yourself, your life and relationships, and your work.

Each session will create a space where we can focus on ourselves, with opportunities to share experiences with fellow EIS members. Once a session has taken place, materials and tried and tested resources will shortly be available.

Visit the programme page to find out more, and plan which Tuesday evenings from 16th February to the 1st June to join us.

1000 Women’s Voices: Recording women’s experiences and resilience during Covid-19

Throughout this time, women in large numbers have been at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic in the caring and teaching professions, whilst also bearing the brunt of exacerbated gender inequality in unpaid house and caring work.

Too often, women's contributions go unrecognised in the documentation of major world and national events. In recognition of this, and to document women's contributions to history as it happens, the EIS is looking for one thousand women members to record their experiences of health, homelife, paid and unpaid work during the pandemic.

The questions should take around ten minutes to answer and will inform EIS policy, campaigning and International Women’s Day actions this year. If you’re interested in being one of the 1000 women whose voices we want to hear visit our website for more information.

Professional Learning for Instrumental Music Teachers

IMTs are invited to take part in a bespoke EIS professional learning opportunity in collaboration with the GTCS, supporting instrumental music teachers to enhance teaching practice through enquiry. This 2-session programme will support IMTs to develop their own teaching practice, based on critical self-reflection and peer discussion with other IMTs, and to engage in wider professional learning arrangements including PRD.

Time: 4pm - 6pm
Date: Thursday 4th February and second session in March.

For further details and to register please see the EIS Website.

Online and Remote Learning - Sharing Practice Webinar

Date TBC

Members are invited to take part in an EIS professional learning webinar on the topic of Online and Remote Learning, showcasing good practice from EIS members across the sector. Participants will also be able to take part in a panel Q&A with presenters, discussing the challenges and opportunities of digital pedagogy for online and remote learning for the pandemic and beyond.

If you are interested in attending this webinar please contact Robert Henthorn to register your interest.

Into Teaching Webinar for Early Career Teachers on Professional Update

Thursday 25th February; 4.30pm - 6.00pm

This event is for members who are in the first four years of their career and who want to know more about ‘Professional Update’.

Key speakers are Susan Quinn (EIS Education Convener), Dr Pauline Stephen (GTCS Director of Education, Registration & Professional Learning) and Suki Sangha (EIS Organiser). The webinar will also involve a Q&A session.

Members are invited to register on our website.

TUC Training Courses for EIS Reps

Training is available for all EIS reps, both new and experienced, and for activists interested in becoming an EIS rep.  In conjunction with the TUC Education, we will be running an online ‘EIS Representatives Course’ for school-based or college/university based representatives or those activists contemplating becoming an EIS rep. The course is a four 4-day course delivered in 2 x 2 day blocks (separated by a couple of months).

The next course is on 25-26th February and 29-30th April 2021.

Further courses will be offered on:

  • 25-26th March and May 6-7th 2021

  • 20-21th May and 2-3rd September 2021

If you wish to attend one of these courses then please contact your Local Association Secretary in the first instance. Thereafter, please register with Jennifer Cook on JCook@eis.org.uk.

76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Teachers unions from Israel (ITU), Germany (GEW and VBE) and Poland (ZNP) would like to invite you to participate in the commemoration of the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz on 27 January 2021.

The main theme of the 76th anniversary of the liberation will be the Fate of Children in Auschwitz.

It is estimated that at least 232,000 children and young people were deported to Auschwitz, of whom 216,000 were Jews, 11,000 Roma, about 3,000 Poles, more than 1,000 Belarusians, and several hundred Russians, Ukrainians, and others. A total of about 23,000 children and young people were registered in the camp. Slightly more than 700 were liberated on the territory of Auschwitz in January 1945.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the commemoration will exceptionally not be held at the Memorial, but in the virtual space.

Register for the event.

‘Black Oot Here: Black Life & Being in Scotland’

Being Black in Scotland are looking for participants to take part in an online questionnaire documenting their experience of nationhood and home, in particular how these have been shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Independence Referendum and Brexit. Focusing on the history and contemporary experiences of Black people in Scotland, the project, led by Francesca Sobande and Layla-Roxanne Hill explores what it means to be Black Oot Here. The research will be published by Zed Books/Bloomsbury in 2022.

Take part here, or share the survey link with anyone who may be interested.

You can follow the project on their website or email BeingBlackinScotland@gmail.com for further information.

 





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