EIS Council has approved a number of actions and policy approaches recently, in response to the ongoing Covid crisis.
They are summarised here to support coherence and possible prioritisation.
A call for Level 4 to trigger automatic consideration of blended / remote learning contingencies;
The establishment of fora and protocols to facilitate trade union involvement in said considerations;
A demand for full transparency around enhanced surveillance data to support the above process;
A renewed demand for mass proactive Testing in Schools
The following actions were agreed also:
1) To continue to engage with the SG in seeking clarity and guidance on the Public Health and Educational circumstances that would trigger a move to blended or remote learning outlined in Appendix A and report back progress or otherwise to the Executive.
2) To provide advice and guidance to Local Associations in negotiations at LNCT level on the Public Health and Educational circumstances that would trigger a move to blended or remote learning outlined in Appendix A.
3) Advise Local Associations to seek urgent dialogue based on the Guidelines in Appendix A, focussing on school by school considerations which look at catchment data re infection levels, in-school data, and member perception of how effective school mitigations are.
4) Agree to support an organising approach to said discussions, including use of collective grievance, articulation of triggers for blended/remote learning options, declaration of dispute, balloting if necessary, etc.
5) Agree to school or Local Association based consultative ballot requests for industrial action in those Council areas which have moved to Level 4 and which have not moved to remote/blended learning.
6) Agree in principle to move to statutory ballots, on a disaggregated basis, where consultative ballots demonstrate sufficient support to overcome Trade Union Act barriers.
7) To approve a “For Your Information, First Minister” communication campaign.
8) Develop a targeted media briefing strategy, to include personal testimony of members in schools, questioning of selective use of data related to infection rates within school communities, and highlighting of positive experiences in the delivery of remote/blended learning.
9) Intensify local and national campaigning for a move to remote/blended learning in those Council areas which have moved to Level 4, and on behalf of paused shielding teachers, pregnant staff and those with vulnerabilities.
10) Demand that the Scottish Government articulate and resource the promised “enhanced and targeted protective measures” cited in its Level 4 guidance.
11) Demand clear articulation from the Scottish Government on the deployment of blended and remote leaning contingencies.
12) Seek further Scottish Government funding for additional staffing in schools to facilitate smaller classes and physical distancing in compliance with public health measures as required in wider society.
Council also approved an organising strategy the key points of which are:
Nationally, the Campaign will involve:
constructive engagement where possible with the Scottish Government, COSLA and other Education bodies
active campaigning to influence the Scottish Government and other bodies
working with the STUC around broader Covid 19 issues
developing a workload dimension in relation to SQA procedures
pursuing agreements around “supply” staff
pursuit of additional investment re staffing, class sizes and education recovery
focus on the gender impacts of SG’s COVID response for schools
the promotion, facilitation and coordination of campaigns in Local Associations, including at school level.
Locally the campaign areas should focus on:
Risk assessments around ventilation and heating
Implementation of school guidance
Collective grievance on paused shielding teachers and those with additional vulnerabilities
Supply staff and cover
Gender impacts of local government COVID responses
Potential ballots around Level 4 mitigations.
Scottish Government Guidelines
In the event of a local outbreak of the virus, a school or a number of schools may be closed temporarily to help control transmission. This applies to schools and local authorities across all protection levels, and is not reserved only for those areas at the highest levels. Schools and local authorities should prepare and maintain clear, strong contingency plans for providing education remotely and should include the possibility of using online national resources such as digital class. Local authorities and schools should ensure that parents/carers are fully informed of the contingency plans in place. A very practical step is for schools to identify the essential items and information that would be needed in the event of a school closure, for example access to contact information, the correspondence that would be used to inform parents and others of the arrangements for closure and re-opening for example.
Local authorities, schools and teachers will need to consider strategies for managing this scenario in their local context, including considering the use of technology. In making decisions on 4 any such approaches, relevant staff should be fully engaged and there should be careful consideration of workload implications. Consideration should be given to the impact of such arrangements on all children, young people and parents/carers affected, especially those who are vulnerable. Reasonable adjustments may need to be made to ensure accessibility. It is important that schools communicate quickly and clearly with parents / carers in order to develop how this will work, to come to arrangements which meet the pupil’s needs as well as the school’s capacity, and to agree appropriate arrangements for ongoing communication during any period self-isolation. This should include arrangements for pupils’ additional support needs.
If the scientific advice were to be updated in the future to recommend that physical distancing should be introduced for children and young people in schools, or deemed necessary by a local Public Health Incident Management Team, then schools and local authorities must be prepared to enact contingency measures as outlined in their Local Phasing Delivery Plans. Local authorities should continue work to strengthen these and to plan for different future scenarios. e.g. a range of distancing requirements.