2nd October 2020

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Teachers' continuing COVID fears highlighted at Council

The first meeting of the EIS national Council for this school year was dominated by continuing concerns over COVID-19 and the need to keep teachers and pupils safe from the risk of infection.

The meeting, held virtually to comply with physical distancing guidelines, heard concerns from teachers and lecturers the length and breadth of Scotland over the current risks to their health and the need for much better measures to protect staff and students.

Council members approved a series of COVID action points that the EIS will take forward, through all appropriate forums, as a matter of urgency.  These include:

  • Seeking clear articulation from the Scottish Government of the triggers that would require local or national school closures, and/or a move to a blended or remote learning model of education.
  • To demand contingency planning for staff previously shielding in the context of rising levels of infection.
  • To continue and intensify the EIS campaign for smaller class sizes, which are essential to enable physical distancing to help keep staff and pupils safe.
  • A renewed call for concrete physical distancing measures facilitated through expansion of the school estate and the employment of additional teachers.
  • To call for clear guidelines from Scottish Government on ventilation and heating in classrooms.
  • To demand stronger guidance and support for ASN pupils and staff, including those in ASN settings.
  • A renewed campaign on tackling the impact of poverty on educational experience.
  • To express a lack of confidence in the SQA handling of the 2020 accreditation process and in the current planning for 2021.

In addition to agreeing the list of action points, Council also approved a Motion which highlighted grave concern over the rising number of coronavirus cases across Scotland and calling on the EIS  to campaign to secure a wider range of mitigations to protect pupils and staff in schools.

SQA

The EIS submission to the Priestley review of last session’s award accreditation can be read here.

The Deputy First Minister is due to make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday re this session’s process. The EIS expects to hear of alternative proposals to simply ploughing ahead with planning for a normal exam diet.

The EIS would support the further use of professional judgment as an alternative to an exam diet but there would need to be safeguards in place around workload pressures and no repeat of teacher judgments being  subject to second guessing by the SQA, as happened this summer.

CERG Update

A number of issues have been raised by the EIS in recent weeks and they are summarised below:

Previously shielding teachers – a paper with further advice is being prepared. The EIS view is clear that individual risk assessments for vulnerable members have to be regularly reviewed and that where Councils fail to do this, we will lodge a collective grievance and seek legal advice around potential breach of the employers duty of care.

Ventilation – a draft further guidance paper is being reviewed and should be issued in the next few weeks.

Potential October circuit breaker – the EIS made clear that any attempt to align a circuit breaker lock down with school October holidays would be regarded as wholly unacceptable by the profession and would significantly lower the morale of teachers who have been working flat out to support education recovery, in the most testing of circumstances.

ASN sector – this has been an ongoing area of concern for teachers in the sector. Further guidance is due to be published shortly and the EIS will be surveying members in the sector as to its value.

COVID-19 Antibody Survey of Education Staff (CASS)

Public Health Scotland (PHS) is working to support the management of COVID-19 in Scotland. One part of this work is gathering information on how the infection has spread in our communities, including how people working in different types of job have been affected.

PHS require your help to understand how many staff in education have had the COVID-19 virus, and how it has affected them. The main aim of CASS is to try and find out what proportion of Scottish education staff have had the new coronavirus by testing for antibodies in their blood. This type of test looks at whether someone has been infected in the past.

The study will involve completing some survey questions and providing a finger-prick blood sample once a month for antibody testing. The study will be open to any adult who works in a school or Early Learning & Childcare setting in Scotland.

More information is provided in the links below:

EIS Guidance on Education Recovery: Curriculum and Pedagogy

The EIS Education Department has updated initial guidance on curriculum and pedagogy in schools to take account of changes to the Scottish Government guidance and member feedback. All changes to the guidance have been highlighted in red. The suite of guidance is sector specific, covering Primary, Secondary, Early Years, ASN Primary and ASN Secondary.

It can be accessed here.

Pensions

Annual Benefit Statements from the Scottish Public Pensions Agency had been delayed until the end of October 2020 but the majority are now available. If your statement is not yet available please do not contact SPPA unless it remains unavailable after 31st October.

All members should check their statements thoroughly and ensure they are available here.

Members should check the following are correct and advise SPPA on SPPAcontactus@gov.scot if there are any queries:

  • Personal Details (date of joining is likely to be missing)
  • CARE Earnings (this should be the actual pay earned in the scheme year April to March)
  • CARE Pension to date (this is the total pension accrued)
  • Final salary benefits - NPA (this should be 60 if you joined before April 2007 and 65 if you joined after April 2007 and before 2015)
  • Total Pensionable Service (this is the service in the final salary scheme, this is pro rata if you have worked part time)
  • Pensionable Pay (this should be the full time equivalent pay for the scheme year)
  • Pension (calculated on 1/80th of pensionable pay for each year for those with NPA 60 and 1/60th for those with NPA 65)
  • Lump Sum (3 times pension for those with NPA 60, should be blank for those with NPA 65)
  • Check Survivor Benefits are as expected
  • HMRC Lifetime Allowance - if total is over 90% seek Independent Financial Advice

Pensions Update: FAQs

The UK Government has launched a consultation on the remedy for the unlawful age discrimination in the transitional arrangements to the 2015 pension schemes.

This follows the successful legal cases brought by the Fire Service union (FBU) and Judiciary.  The changes proposed will affect all public sector schemes including the Scottish Teachers’ Pension Scheme. Our FAQs provide further information and explanation.

Anti-poverty Professional Learning by the EIS PACT Project

Wednesday 28th October (5pm) or Friday 30th October (1.30pm)

The EIS PACT Project is offering a second module exploring the relationship between poverty and young people’s experiences of education and identifying ways that schools and teachers can mitigate the damage that it can do to young people’s outcomes.

Key themes of the module are: Understanding Poverty Better; The Human Rights Approach to Poverty; Pedagogical Approaches to Mitigating the Impact of Poverty; and Creating a Whole School Anti-Poverty Culture.

Organiser Support

It is more important than ever that members are meeting and workplace reps are meeting with members.

Organisers are available to hold virtual branch meetings in your workplace.

Organisers are available to offer training for members and reps in schools in a number of topics including H&S training and how to ensure a collective response to branch level issues during covid-19, rep training and branch organising training, at a time and date that is suitable to your members in your branch.

If your school does not have a rep, contact your Organiser for advice on how to become a rep and the support you can receive.





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