General Secretary Update 08 May

Created on: 07 May 2020 | Last modified: 01 Mar 2021

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General Secretary Message

Dear Colleague

You may have picked up from the media that the Deputy First Minister has formed a Covid 19 Education Recovery Group (CERG), which is looking at a high-level strategy for when and how schools will reopen post lockdown.

The EIS is represented on the main body and also on the 10 workstreams which have been formed to look at specific areas: Term 4; preparing for the next academic year; curriculum and assessment; supporting vulnerable pupils; pastoral care for CYP; workforce support; workforce planning; school improvement in a new context; critical childcare; and early learning and childcare.

The minutes of the main group are published on the Scottish Government website. 

As you might expect the work is being progressed at pace, although no major decisions have been made, as yet. What is clear is that when schools reopen, physical class size limits will need to be cut dramatically in order to comply with social distancing and other health guidelines.

Pupils will not be returning to full-time in-school learning for the foreseeable future, therefore. A blended approach, with some continuation of remote learning being in place, is inevitable. How this might work, is precisely what is under discussion. 

No doubt, as you read this, a hundred questions are springing to mind – the task of the workstreams is to anticipate such questions and to distil some advice in response. The EIS is actively engaged in this and will seek to keep you informed.

Perhaps the most pertinent question is when might schools return?

The EIS is clear that schools, and indeed colleges and universities, should not be physically reopening  until a comprehensive "test trace and isolate" capacity is in place to prevent a spike in infection; until there is demonstrable evidence that the spread of infection is under control; and until there are agreed operational strategies in place to ensure that schools are safe working environments for both staff and pupils.

The link below, to a letter from the British and Irish Group of Teacher Unions, succinctly sets out our position.

The EIS view is that an August return is most likely, although late June has not been ruled out completely by some others. Planning effectively for the new circumstances, also requires time e.g. what will be the requirements around SQA accreditation? Teachers will need answers to such questions before pupils start arriving back in schools.

Although there are more questions than answers at this point, colleagues, please be assured that the EIS continues to advocate on your behalf as we navigate our way through these turbulent times. The survey referenced below, is an opportunity for you to have a say on these issues, also.

Our new online SEJ (Scottish Educational Journal), due to be published next week, will also allow for comment and discussion.

Further updates to follow. In the meantime, stay safe.


BIGTU Letter.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan and, the General Secretaries of 9 other teacher trade unions across the UK and Ireland, have written to the Education Ministers in all 5 jurisdictions urging "significant caution in any consideration of reopening schools."

The letter, sent by the British Irish Group of Teacher Unions (BIGTU) on behalf of almost 1 million teachers and education staff,  warns of the "very real risk of creating a spike in the transmission of the virus by a premature opening of schools." 

A full copy of the letter can be found here. 

Scottish Parliament

The Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament heard evidence recently from the SQA and from the DFM. The EIS made brief submissions to both hearings which can be read here.

Working from Home (WfH) Guidelines

The EIS WfH Guidelines have been updated this week to include further information on home working, equality and reasonable adjustments. They can be accessed here. 

New Online SEJ to Launch next Week

Next week, a new online version of the Scottish Educational Journal (SEJ) will be launched. As a result of a previous member survey, the EIS has been looking at ways of enhancing the online SEJ to make it a more interactive experience for readers. Given the Covid 19 crisis, and the practical challenges in producing and distributing a printed magazine at this time, we have accelerated the development of the new online SEJ.

The online SEJ will include a similar mix of news, features and opinion as the printed SEJ, but will also include enhanced digital content such as audio and video, together with easy links to allow you to access related content. Readers will also have the opportunity to comment on articles, to facilitate professional discussion on the key issues.

A link to the new online SEJ will be emailed to all members next week, (it will also be accessible via the EIS website).

COVID-19 Across the Globe

The coronavirus pandemic has led to many countries resorting to extraordinary measures to curb the spread of the virus. This has included lockdowns and the closure of all schools.

As time has moved on, some countries have begun to ease lockdown measures and reopen schools. The EIS has produced a paper highlighting some of the steps taken in other countries around lockdowns ending and schools reopening.

You can read a copy of the paper here. The data in this report was accurate as of 30 April.

Member Survey

We plan to launch a member survey next week around a range of Covid 19 issues. We had a great response to our last survey, and those findings remain live and relevant, but clearly there are specific issues around the current situation where member opinion and experience is critical to informing how the EIS responds on your behalf. 

If you can find the time to respond, that would be greatly appreciated and highly valuable in informing our contributions to national discussions.

Higher & Further Education

EIS representatives have recently attended meetings chaired by the F&HE Minister Richard Lochhead to set out issues facing lecturers in the higher and further education sectors, and to seek government support.

The main issues raised are lack of meaningful engagement between some institutions and their recognised trade unions, a desire for more joint work at a national level with employers, rapid digitalisation, the use of the Job Retention Scheme (aka furloughing), diverging practice in colleges in assessing external awards, and the financial sustainability of colleges & especially universities.

The EIS FELA Executive met this week and the EIS ULA Executive will meet next week. Please check the EIS website regularly for updates.