Created on: 25 Mar 2020 | Last modified: 15 Jul 2021
Welcome to this bulletin which contains some significant updates for your information and convenience. Events are moving rapidly and what is an immediate concern at a point in time, can quickly become yesterday's issue. On Monday for example, we were fire-fighting across the country about staff being brought into schools unnecessarily, often being detained there for no good purpose, and then overnight it was a redundant issue.
Although such scenarios can be frustrating, the position the EIS has taken in all situations has been to engage in a constructive dialogue to resolve concerns – everyone is under pressure and mistakes will be made but we need to keep talking.
The "lock-down" announcements, severe as they are, at least brought some clarity to working arrangements and underlined that the driver of all decisions should be the health implications attached to choices being made.
This priority is factored into our advice in all the areas listed below.
There are several areas covered but I would like to acknowledge in particular the work of members in supporting the Hub arrangements. The importance of this work should not be underestimated – it underpins the country's capacity to keep front line medical staff and other key workers at work – saving lives.
Scotland's teachers are once again going that extra mile -thank you.
I hope the information below is useful.
For the school sector the only reason for any building being open is to provide childcare and education provision for children of key workers, for those who are vulnerable and for those who have additional learning needs which cannot reasonably be met at home.
Across the country, as preparations have been made, it has been clear that the number of teachers willing to volunteer for this critical work, as part of our support for the NHS in particular, has vastly outstripped current demand. This is testimony to the dedication of the profession.
We should recognise, also, that those unable to volunteer because of personal circumstances or family responsibilities, are contributing greatly to the national response through the remote educational opportunities offered to the rest of the school pupil population.
In terms of the Hubs, some guidelines have been developed nationally to assist in local discussions about how the Hubs operate.
Remote working will be the norm for a while. The EIS is working on guidelines to support the learning aspect of this and to support member health and well-being, also, in these stressful times.
An initial posting should be on the website early next week, although this resource will be further populated as the weeks progress.
In terms of health and wellbeing, the EIS is clear that there is a balance to be struck between working remotely and your own home and family life.
There have been early reports, for example, of some Headteachers asking for weekly records of work to be submitted. That is a nonsense and we won't allow such unnecessary bureaucratic demands to be made of teachers amidst what are both professionally and personally already extremely difficult circumstances. Early guidance is being produced around a set of principles to guide home-working but by way of further illustration for now, it is not acceptable that personal phone numbers are shared with pupils. More to follow.
Education Support is a UK charity offering mental health and wellbeing support services to all education staff and organisations. Telephone support and counselling services are available here.
Their helpline is free and available to all teachers, lecturers and staff in education (primary, secondary, further or higher education) in England, Wales and Scotland 24/7, 365 days a year.
Discussions are ongoing but it is clear that accreditation this year, for National Qualifications, will be founded on teacher professional judgement based on all the evidence available, including, but not exclusively, prelim results, classwork, marked assignments, completed coursework, etc.
The SQA will need to look at how the data can best be standardised but that is a significant discussion which is not yet concluded. The SQA Qualifications Contingency Group continues to meet.
A system wide buy-in to the results when they are published by employers, colleges and Universities, will be critical. The EIS starting point is that no pupil or student should be disadvantaged by circumstances which are beyond their control.
Some college students sit National Qualifications such as Highers. However, many sit other types of SQA qualifications, including NCs, SVQs, HNCs and HNDs.
An SQA update for the college sector is due out today or tomorrow and will be posted on the website, as soon as it is available.
EIS-FELA has submitted some suggestions to SQA about how matters should be processed and are seeking further dialogue. Underpinning the FELA suggestions is recognition that many students will be struggling to cope with the impact of COVID 19 on their personal lives and so it is critical that any accreditation approach should not add to the current pressures upon students.
We have been working all week to reach an agreed circular at SNCT level on COVID 19. This is proving to be a protracted process but it is almost there. It will be posted on the website as soon as it is available. It covers areas such as key workers, health and well-being, and pay issues – some of which have been overtaken by local agreements.
The EIS is very aware of the concerns of members doing supply work and clarification in this area is part of the SNCT discussions. A number of Councils have already confirmed that supply staff currently in post will remain so and be paid accordingly. That is the view which the EIS supports and is arguing for.
The situation for supply staff not currently employed and unlikely to be so in the next period is more precarious. We are very clear that support has to be put in place for this group of staff, in the same way that arrangements are being made around other groups of workers who now find themselves unable to earn a living. This has been raised with the Scottish Government as it is likely to need a national input as well as Council by Council consideration.
EIS headquarters, all Area Offices and Local Association Offices are now closed, in line with government advice on COVID-19.
All EIS employees are now working remotely from home and we intend to continue to offer, as far as possible, a business as usual service to members.
We have placed a dedicated COVID-19 enquiry box on our website, allowing members to ask questions for response by EIS Local Associations or Area Officers.
Please see the newly updated Contacts page on our website for further information on contacting EIS employees during the office closures.
Scottish Government & CoSLA