General Secretary Covid Update: 12 Feb 2021

Created on: 12 Feb 2021 | Last modified: 13 Jul 2021

coronavirus update

Schools Covid Update

A Special Executive meeting was held on Wednesday 10th February to discuss the Scottish Government plans for the phased reopening of face-to face- teaching from February 22nd.

Executive members noted the express intention of the Scottish Government to prioritise school reopening ahead of any wider loosening of Lockdown measures but remained concerned that even a limited reopening needed to be predicated on improved suppression of the virus and enhanced school mitigations – and reaffirmed the pre-Christmas message of Not at All Costs.

The current Scottish figure of infection levels is around 123 per 100,000 (although this varies geographically), which would equate broadly to Level 2 and the test positivity rate is around 5% (which if sustained would be considered by the World Health Organisation as being indicative of the virus being under control). Against this improving scenario, however, Executive members expressed concern about the new variant of the virus, now the dominant variant in Scotland, and its increased transmissibility, which members felt had been underplayed in the scientific Advisory Group advice report to Scottish Government.

Executive was clear, therefore, that a precautionary approach to reopening remains essential and has called for the plans to be reconsidered by Scottish Government to facilitate a blended approach in Primary, which would allow for physical distancing amongst pupils.

The current proposals are subject to Cabinet review next Tuesday – the EIS would expect to see evidence of continued progress on virus suppression before any confirmation is announced. 

Executive rejected the Advisory Group recommendation that physical distancing between staff and pupils was not required across P1-3 and will insist that the status quo be applied i.e. maintain 2m between staff and pupils.

Executive also agreed to press for a range of enhanced mitigations including:

  • Use and supply of clinical grade face masks (FFP2)

  • Improved ventilation measures amidst increased risk of aerosol transmission

  • Greater use of pupil bubbles and staggered school day arrangements

  • Agreement re protection of vulnerable and shielding staff i.e. continued working from home.


The introduction of twice weekly testing for staff and senior pupils was welcomed, as this was an area the EIS had pressed on previously. Although this is voluntary, the Institute would urge members to participate fully in the programme. Access to the current asymptomatic testing will continue, also.


Whilst some progress has been made on ASN staff who deal with pupils with complex needs being vaccinated within the first phase of the vaccine roll out, there is a need to intensify our campaign around the prioritisation of school staff within Phase 2 of the roll-out (i.e. after those most at risk of death). Executive was of the view that the Scottish Government is too willing to abrogate responsibility in this area to the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.  If opening schools is the political objective, vaccinating teachers should be an absolute priority. A lobby campaign on this issue will be launched shortly.

Supply Teachers

The recent EIS Supply Member survey indicated that hundreds of members are seeking work but struggling to find the same in some Council areas. The DFM has indicated that all teachers seeking work should be deployed in schools to support Education recovery and £45 million has been available to facilitate this.

The survey results are being discussed at LNCT level.

Any member seeking supply work is invited to contact their Local Association Secretary so that support can be provided.


The phased return allows for very limited access to in-school teaching for Senior Phase students in a range of practical subjects with 2m physical distancing to be enforced between students, and a strict limit on the overall number of students allowed access any one time (5-8% of school roll).

For other Senior Phase students remote learning remains in place, with the absolute focus being on teaching and learning rather than assessment.

In terms of the Alternative Assessment Model significant discussions have been taking place around the impact of lockdown and the implications for timelines. The EIS has stressed the need for clear communication to school as soon as possible to allow for forward planning in what is an increasingly time critical framework.  


The following background papers were considered by Executive. They are provided here for information: