The move to lockdown had been precipitated by the emerging data on the impact of the new variant and the implication that unchecked it would lead to the NHS being overwhelmed by the end of January. The main purpose of the Scottish Government in closing schools was to make the lockdown as effective as possible, an argument the union has used around Level 4 and high community infection levels.
The EIS is concerned, however, about the implications of the new variant and has raised the need to analyse the evidence around its potential impact on children, particularly regarding their role in transmission chains, as critical to how and when face-to-face teaching might be resumed.
The current planning assumption of the Scottish Government is that any future reopening is likely to be on a potential phased return, but even that could only happen when community infection levels are significantly lower and with the new evidence in schools being factored in e.g. physical distancing between pupils may become a required mitigation.
The next fortnightly review of remote learning is planned for the start of February, with the current remote learning arrangements in place until at least mid-February.
Vaccine and Testing
The EIS had raised directly with the First Minister the inclusion of staff in ASN settings in the first roll-out of the vaccine, on the basis of ASN schools being more akin to clinical settings.
The First Minister was sympathetic and reported this was being actively considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI), at a UK level.
We are pushing, also, for teachers to be offered the vaccine as part of the 2nd phase of vaccination (beyond the clinically vulnerable) on the pragmatic basis that if Scottish Government wishes to prioritise schools re-opening, vaccinating teachers and other school staff is one way to achieve that safely.
Pilots are underway around Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing of staff, through a home kit. As an enhanced mitigation around schools re-opening, this would provide teachers with the ability to have weekly tests (an EIS demand from an earlier Council decisions.)
Initial feedback from various groups at CERG (Covid Education Recovery Group), is that the remote learning offer has improved significantly from the emergency situation of the first lockdown. EIS advice on effective pedagogical approaches can be found here.
At the insistence of the Scottish Government, Education Scotland (HMIE) plans to survey around 5% of schools weekly on their remote learning offers. Although it is claimed that this will be a light touch sampling exercise not involving teachers directly, the EIS has made clear that we believe this to be an unnecessary approach.
Members are reminded about the importance of looking after their own well-being in lockdown by seeking to control workload and separating out work and home life. Advice can be found here.
The EIS has called for every unemployed teacher seeking work to be signed up on at least a temporary contract (Scottish Government has announced an additional £45 million for local authorities around remote learning so there is cash there to do this.) If we have a phased return, there could be a need to employ more teachers to cover both class teaching and blended learning but even now teachers who are available should be signed up to help with those pupils from more vulnerable backgrounds to ensure that they have an individual Mentor/Tutor.
We are surveying on members seeking supply work to identify the scale and locality of available teachers.
Lockdown clearly creates challenges around the alternative assessment model, which are likely to grow the longer remote learning is in place.
The key message is for the current focus to be on learning – members should not be looking to carry out summative assessments online.
Clearly a full range of options require to be looked at, which might mean a lighter touch quality assurance system from the SQA. There is broad agreement, however, that awards need to evidence-based, which is an important safeguard for professional judgement.
The EIS supports the pushing back of estimates to as late in June as possible, to maximise in-school time.
A section dedicated to COVID related Education Advice can be found on the EIS Website here . The Education and Equality Department has updated the following Guidance to reflect current changes Advice on Blended and Remote Teaching and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Working from Home Guidelines
Action for Reps: Please direct members to the EIS website for current advice.
EIS FELA members are continuing industrial action at Forth Valley over the removal of lecturers’ posts, and the introduction of instructor/assessor posts last year. The new instructor/assessor posts are lower paid, with more class contact hours, less time for preparation and reduced annual leave. Members are taking action short of strike (ASOS); working to rule, and a marking boycott. They will continue ASOS until Friday 29 January, unless a resolution is found.
Action for Reps: Please show solidarity with members taking action by posting on Facebook or Twitter – don’t forget to tag @eisforthvalley #collegesNeedLecturers
The EIS Council is the principal executive committee of the EIS. It meets around five times a year, usually in Edinburgh, and at the AGM.
Nomination forms for members interested in standing for election to Council for 2021/22 are available from your Local Association Secretary and from the EIS website.
Reps should have received a communication from the Membership team recently regarding Newly Qualified Teachers who are due to start paying subscriptions from 1 February but who have not yet supplied bank details to enable a Direct Debit arrangement to be set up.
Action for Reps: We would be grateful for any assistance you can offer in encouraging these members to visit ‘MyEIS’ and add their bank details to their membership record thereon.
If you have new colleagues in your school who are EIS members, they should update their school base or personal contact details on the myEIS section of the website. Remind them to log on using their EIS number. It is quick and simple to set up a password. Alternatively, as a Rep you should have access to member lists for your school and you can update details on their behalf.
Action for Reps: Update member details here.
Members are invited to take part in an EIS professional learning webinar on the topic of online and remote learning, showcasing good practice from EIS members across the sector. Participants will also be able to take part in a panel Q&A with presenters, discussing the challenges and opportunities of digital pedagogy for online and remote learning for the pandemic and beyond.
Date to be confirmed.
More details and registration available soon via the EIS website.
Action for Reps: Please make members aware of the upcoming webinar.
Training is available for all EIS reps, both new and experienced, and for activists interested in becoming an EIS rep. In conjunction with the TUC Education, we will be running the ‘EIS Representatives Course’ online for school-based or college/university based representatives or those contemplating becoming an EIS rep.
This course is a four 4-day course delivered in 2 x 2 day blocks (separated by a couple of months).
The next course is on 25-26th February 2021 and 29-30th April 2021.
Further courses will be offered on:
• 25-26th March 2021 and May 6-7th 2021
• 20-21th May 2021 and 2-3rd September 2021
Action for Reps: Please contact your Local Association Secretary first if you wish to take this course on one of the above sets of dates. Thereafter, please register with Jennifer Cook on JCook@eis.org.uk. As a rep, you may wish to offer this course to EIS activists within your Branch.
Thursday 25th February: 4.30pm- 6.00pm
This event is for EIS members that are in the first four years of their teaching career and who want to know more about Professional Update. Key speakers include Susan Quinn EIS Education Committee Convenor, Dr Pauline Stephen GTC Scotland and Suki Sangha EIS Organiser. The webinar will also involve a Q&A session.
Action for Reps: Please draw the course to the attention of EIS members who are in the first four years of teaching at your schools and encourage them to register here.
IMTs are invited to take part in a bespoke EIS professional learning opportunity in collaboration with the GTCS, supporting instrumental music teachers to enhance teaching practice through enquiry. This 2-session programme will support IMTs to develop their own teaching practice, based on critical self-reflection and peer discussion with other IMTs, and to engage in wider professional learning arrangements including PRD.
16:00-18:00 Thursday 4th February 2021 and second session in March.
Action for Reps: Please make IMT members aware of the upcoming programme.
If you would like support to hold a branch meeting, advice on rep training or building your branch, please contact your EIS Organiser. You can find their contact details on the EIS website.