General Secretary Update 16 July 2020

Created on: 16 Jul 2020 | Last modified: 01 Mar 2021

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Dear Member,

The Scottish Government has published two reports from the SAGE sub-committee on schools.

The EIS had called for this scientific evidence to be published so that there was full transparency around the context in which the COVID Education Recovery Group was discussing how schools might reopen.

The reports are cautious in tone, overall, and It should be noted that the advice is heavily contingent upon continued suppression of the virus – for schools to reopen with a full pupil return the country needs to be in Stage 4 of the journey out of lockdown. Any resurgence in infection rates could reverse the current Scottish Government assumptions.

The importance of significant mitigations being operational in schools is explicit in the scientific advice; the nature and detail of those mitigations is now under active consideration at CERG.

From an EIS perspective, pro-active testing of school communities is certainly one measure which we feel should be in place. We also think that more should be done around senior pupils, who are young adults rather than children – smaller class sizes being an option. 

Smaller classes could apply across all sectors, of course, and we are pushing hard for additional funding to be announced to ensure that all teachers currently seeking posts (NQTs, RQTs, those on temporary contracts or supply lists) are employed to support what will be a major effort in supporting the educational recovery of pupils.

Amongst the safeguards being advocated by the EIS within CERG are: more time at the start of term for additional preparation and planning; revised risk assessments being carried out; enhanced cleaning practices established; advice and continued protection for staff with underlying health conditions or who are vulnerable; guidance on disciplinary issues related to COVID safeguards; details on "Test and Isolate" operations at school level.

As indicated in a previous communication, the intention of the Scottish Government is to make a final decision on schools reopening by July 30th at the latest, at which time any agreed guidance will  be issued. If there is any change to that timetable, we will advise members.

I appreciate that the reports will generate as many questions as answers but I would stress that at the moment they represent advice to the Education Recovery Group, rather than final decisions.

Finally, colleagues, I hope that you are achieving something of a break, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances.

Best wishes,