11 August 2021

Reps Bulletin

Dear Rep

Welcome back!

I sincerely hope that you have managed to enjoy a good break over the summer period.

As you will be aware there have been some significant changes in relation to the pandemic and the Scottish Government announced on Tuesday 3rd August 2021 that Scotland would be moving to Covid level "beyond level 0" with effect from Monday 9th August. This means that fewer Covid rules and regulations apply to Scottish society. More detail may be found here.

Before the Summer break, however, agreement had been reached within CERG (Covid Education Recovery Group) that schools should reopen with the same regulations and mitigations in place as when they closed in June 2021. The Scottish Government's announcements on 3rd August broadly deliver on this commitment, although some changes will be phased in during the first six weeks and changes to self-isolation will apply on re-opening.

Further details are cited below.

It is essential at a school level that all risk assessments are revisited, and that agreement is reached around implementation of the revised guidance.

The EIS continues to press for rigorous application of agreed mitigations.

A Member bulletin will be issued early next week.

Best wishes

Larry

Key Mitigations

The latest Scottish Government guidelines on school opening can be found here.

Physical Distancing

Whilst broad societal guidance on physical distancing has reduced from 2m to "at least 1m", the school guidance makes clear the "expectation" that 2m should continue to be in place unless there is a pressing reason to change it.

The EIS expects schools, therefore,  to have the same physical distancing measures in place when they open as they had when they closed for the summer break. This means that large meetings such as staff meetings, should continue to be online if appropriate physical distancing is not possible.

It is not envisaged that there will be an early return to parents' evenings, as the current guidance indicates that parents should only be in school when "strictly necessary". Any in-person parental visits, therefore, would need to be agreed in advance, appropriately risk-assessed, adhere to mitigations, etc.

Self-Isolation

The Scottish Government has amended the national rules for 'self-isolation', and schools have been similarly affected. Whilst "close contacts" will need to self-isolate where a positive case is found, that self-isolation may be terminated early for adults who have had two vaccinations and obtain a negative PCR test result after the self-isolation has begun, and for pupils if they have a negative PCR test during the self-isolation.

Thereafter twice weekly lateral flow tests (LFTs) should be deployed to monitor the situation, with anyone testing positive or developing symptoms being required to self-isolate and take a further PCR test.

Whilst the changes to the 'self-isolation' rules will necessitate more testing, the EIS is clear that this will not be carried out by teachers and further detail as to how this will be actively managed by Public Health Scotland is being sought.

Test & Protect: Increased Testing

Twice-weekly lateral flow tests remain on offer and members are urged to participate in this programme.

Ventilation and CO2 Monitors

Progress was made on CO2 monitors in some Council areas last session, but not all. The Scottish Government has allocated £10m of additional funding to support improved ventilation and it has said that it will be increasing the number of CO2 monitors available to schools and strengthening the guidance for LAs on CO2 monitoring.

Branches are urged to make this a priority issue in schools, ahead of a change in seasonal conditions.

Vaccinations

The vaccination programme is on track to ensure that all teachers will have had the opportunity to receive both vaccinations by the end of September. The EIS would urge members not yet vaccinated to take advantage of the programme.

The Scottish Government has announced, also, that 16- & 17-year-olds will be offered vaccinations. A decision as to whether 12–16-year-olds are also offered the vaccine remains in the hands of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation).

Shielding

With shielding coming to an end, those members who are in the highest risk group are reminded that they are entitled to bespoke risk assessments before any return to in-school teaching. 

These members are also advised to contact their GP or secondary care clinician who can continue to advise absence from work/work from home through the use of a Fit Note where there are specific and individual clinical reasons.

Whilst the guidance published by the Scottish Government sets out advice for people in the highest risk group (previously those on the shielding list) and makes clear that the Chief Medical Officer's advice to everyone on the list, at level 0 and beyond level 0, is that it is currently safe to go into work if you cannot work from home and that it is safe to use public transport (if needed to get to work), that does not overrule medical or clinical advice to the contrary.

To be clear, the national guidance doesn't override advice from individual GPs or secondary care clinicians who can continue to advise alternative arrangements through the use of a Fit Note where there are specific and individual clinical reasons.

All previous EIS advice regarding individual risk assessments, etc. stands.

Support from EIS reps or LA Secretaries should be sought where required.

Pregnant Staff

There has been no universal change to the advice around pregnant staff and the EIS expects Councils to continue to offer bespoke options to work from home where this has been previous practice.

Risk Assessments

Risk assessments remain a key way for Local Authorities as employers to reduce risks that are specific to their workplaces or individual staff. All risk assessments should be reviewed at the start of the new school year. EIS Health and Safety and/or School Reps should be involved in this process.

Drama, Music, PE and Dance

The Scottish Government is advising that these activities can resume with baseline mitigations maintained. Schools should note that, in line with the move to Level 0 and beyond, children and young people can now engage in all drama, music, PE and dance activity in schools, indoors and outdoors.

Safety mitigations should continue to apply in relevant settings where these activities are taking place (e.g. good ventilation, enhanced hygiene, etc.).

The EIS would emphasise the need for rigour in risk assessment in relation to these activities.

Further Modifications of Mitigations

These mitigations will be reviewed by the Scottish Government after six weeks and they may be further modified at that point.

The EIS, however, will continue to seek the safest suite of mitigations for schools via CERG, other multi-stakeholders' groups, and bilaterally at both local and national level.

Actions for Reps

Please communicate the contents of this email to members.

It would be advantageous to hold a Branch meeting to discuss the Covid safeguards and current risk assessments in your school. Raise any concerns regarding modifications to working practices or the risk assessments with your school management.

If you are unable to agree to the sought-after modifications to your school risk assessment, then contact your LA Secretary.

Seek to maintain a dialogue with the school management team so that it is aware of the Branch's views on the efficacy of the mitigations in place and ask your headteacher to feedback the Branch's views to the Local Authority.

Full Table of Mitigations in Place in Schools (from Guidance):

Mitigation

Approach

(retain/retain with modifications/remove/new)

Timings

Risk assessment

Retain

Ongoing

Encouragement of vaccination

New

Ongoing

Environmental cleaning

Retain

Up to 6 weeks (then contingent on further advice)

Hand and respiratory hygiene

Retain

PPE in specific circumstances

Retain

Face coverings in communal areas

Retain

Face coverings in secondary classrooms

Retain

Physical distancing for adults

Retain (note change to "at least 1m", but 2m distancing expected to remain for logistical purposes)

One-way systems

Retain

Drop-off and pick-up

Retain

Staggered start and stop times/ break and lunch times

Retain

Restrictions on assemblies

Retain

Support for people in the highest risk groups/pregnant staff

Retain (updated guidance)

2x weekly at-home asymptomatic testing

Retain (updated guidance/materials to support uptake and recording)

Outbreak management

Retain (updated guidance re: public health approach)

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for adults 18+

Retain with modifications (updated guidance – removal of some restrictions for double-vaccinated adult close contacts)

Align relevant school arrangements with updated approach in wider society ASAP

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for U18s 

Retain with modifications (updated guidance – removal of some restrictions for U18 close contacts)

Groupings

Remove

Remove ASAP and in any case within 4 weeks

Ventilation

Retain (strengthened guidance for LAs on CO2 monitoring)

Ongoing

Restrictions on Drama, Music, PE and Dance

Remove (in line with previous guidance)

Up to 6 weeks (then contingent on further advice)

Restrictions on school visitors

Retain with modifications (P1 parents/carers permitted to support transition where strictly necessary)

School transport

Retain with modifications (alignment with public transport).

School trips

Retain (updated guidance)

Readiness and assurance

Retain (updated guidance)

Ongoing

 





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