General Secretary Update 13 August

Created on: 13 Aug 2020 | Last modified: 01 Mar 2021

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Message from General Secretary

Scottish Government concedes asymptomatic testing under EIS pressure


As pupils start to return, we have been collating at HQ responses from members re concerns around this process which include poor preparation on the part of some Councils e.g. no enhanced cleaning, inadequate supplies of hand sanitiser, a lack of signage in schools, no guidance on the size of staff meetings etc. Such failures are unacceptable. 

We will be surveying School Reps next week to gather evidence on how the reopening has gone, specifically to identify any failures to implement mitigations which need to be raised directly with Councils.

We had to declare two collective grievances, one in the Scottish Borders and one in Moray, over inadequate consultation with the EIS and a lack of phased pupil return. The situation in Moray has been resolved and we are engaging with SBC, but it is regrettable that the Institute had to take out the grievances in the first instance.

There is a clear lesson, however, in that it was collective action and voice which made the difference.

The EIS survey made clear that members lack confidence that even the agreed mitigations will be delivered, let alone further ones being agreed.

The key to ensuring implementation lies in collective strength. This was key to our winning the pay campaign.

Over the summer holiday period, when the Scottish Government Guidelines were being developed, there was little opportunity to generate a collective EIS response, such as we did throughout the pay campaign, and although we were represented on the CERG group and advocated for the strongest mitigations – several, such as social distancing, were rejected by Scottish Government and its “advisors.”

But like the pay campaign, it is not the skill of an individual or the legitimacy of the argument which holds sway, it’s collective power which works, which is why the EIS Executive went for a member survey as soon as it could after the Guidelines were actually made public and members made their voices heard with nearly 30,000 responses – out biggest survey ever!

Already, that collective voice has seen progress made with the announcement in Parliament yesterday, Wednesday, that teachers will be able to access asymptomatic testing on request – rather than having to wait until symptoms have developed. This was one of the additional mitigations identified by members in the survey and we have achieved it.

You can read the letter from the Deputy First Minister here.

The letter also details the ring-fenced funding which has been secured to create around 1400 extra teaching posts. We think more is needed but this is still a significant win, especially for those members who will now be employed next session.

We continue to seek further improvements and in conjunction with other teacher unions on the SNCT Teachers' Panel, we have detailed these in the minute of our last meeting which has been submitted to the Covid Education Recovery Group (CERG) for consideration.

You will see from the minute that the precarious situation of members who had been shielding or were vulnerable in some way is a key concern. (We put out advice previously for members who are pregnant but if you missed this, it can be found here.)

In the survey, the majority of members (67%) supported the reopening of schools but that should not mean that the very real concerns expressed about safety by an even greater number (80%) are set aside.

In particular 2m physical distancing between all adults must be observed; this is a critical safeguard for both you as an individual and for those you work with. 

Equally, maintaining 2m distance between yourself and pupils is essential. Pedagogical advice for members is being developed as achieving this distancing will require adapted approaches, but this is public health advice designed to maintain suppression of the virus so members are advised to implement it fully.

We will continue to update members on national developments but at a school and local authority level members are urged to act together to ensure all safeguards are in place and observed.

Stay safe,


Risk Assessment Addendum - Ventilation

An additional item to the risk assessment checklist, relating to ventilation issues, can be found here.


The EIS has welcomed the upholding of teacher professional judgement in the Deputy First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament and also welcomed both the wide ranging review of Scotland’s assessment and awarding system as well as the short term inquiry to be led by Professor Mark Priestley. Read our press release here.

Health and Safety Spot Checks by the HSE

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are carrying out sample spot checks on schools from 13 August. HSE will be phoning 500 schools with a checklist of questions. Local Authorities have been advised of this and should be letting all Head Teachers know that a spot check (phone call) may happen.

For those schools where there are concerns identified from the responses to the questions there will be follow-up inspection by HSE. We have stressed to HSE the need for contact with EIS Safety Reps when in schools and HSE have agreed that this would be a priority for Inspectors.

This is a positive development towards ensuring that employers prioritise health and safety and we will be following-up on any issues that arise from the final report from HSE.

Publication of Additional Subject- specific Guidance on Learning and Teaching During Covid

SSERC has produced guidance on carrying out practical work in Sciences and Technologies. The Guidance was updated to take account of the full return of all pupils by next week.

Education Scotland has published guidance this week on safe practice in PE. It can be accessed here.

Education Scotland has indicated that advice for Home Economics will be available in the Autumn and Scottish Government has stated that guidance for Music and Drama is currently being prepared. The EIS will push for speedier publication of subject-specific guidance, through our engagement with CERG.

Professional Learning Events

A selection of online Professional Learning courses will take place throughout September. These include:

  • Leadership Toward Management for BME Teachers and Lecturers
  • Developing Awareness of the Mental Health Needs of Children and Young People
  • Building Teacher Leadership
  • Teacher Health and Wellbeing
  • Additional Support for Learning

Visit our website for more information on these courses and to book your place.

Professional Learning Blog

EIS Learning Reps have participated in Professional Learning around developing digital skills. To review the key learning points and access links to free resources to use in the classroom, visit:


PACT is an EIS-Scottish Government initiative to deliver equity-related professional learning on a national scale. Our online, interactive, four-module programme, beginning 19th August, offers a choice of days and times to participate.

You can join up for either the Wednesday group at 5pm – 7pm, or the Friday group at 1.30pm – 3.30pm, whichever suits your schedule best. The programme has been designed to incrementally deepen understanding, learning and action around a whole-school approach to poverty.  Find out more and sign up to the PACT Community.

National Probationer Webinar

A national probationers' webinar will be held for probationers across Scotland at 6pm on September 2nd. Find out more information and register on the EIS website. Meet other probationers all entering the profession, learn about the support you can get and how to get the best out of your probation year.

This event is open to probationers across Scotland. Sign up on our website.