The Scottish Government this week confirmed its planning assumption that all pupils will return to school full time after the Easter break, April 12th or 19th depending on holiday arrangements. This is still caveated by the need for a green light from the Scientific Advisory sub-group on Education re removal of the physical distancing requirement for secondary pupils.
This group will meet next on April 6th to review data, especially the impact on infection levels arising from the full re-opening of schools in England. The EIS is not convinced that distancing between pupils should be removed and has urged caution against rushing to judgement simply because of convenient datelines.
The Covid Education Recovery Group (CERG) will continue to meet throughout the spring-break.
Notwithstanding the above caveat, the Scottish Government has issued updated guidance predicated on a full return.
There have been significant discussions both locally and nationally around the importance of improving/delivering ventilation mitigations, one of the EIS key demands, and this is underlined in the guidance as the role of aerosol transmission in relation to the Kent variant has now been acknowledged.
A simple guide to the importance of ventilation can be read here.
Uptake of Lateral Flow Testing by staff and senior pupils has largely been in line with in-school attendance and post Easter these tests will be available to S1-S3 pupils also. The EIS would continue to urge all members to take part in the testing arrangements.
Post Easter will be a critical period for SQA qualifications. Agreement is being reached across local authorities around the two additional school closure days to support quality assurance processes, but workload pressure will remain significant. There has been an agreement nationally that delivering certification should be the singular priority for secondaries, with other matters set aside. If this is not the practice in your school – please alert the Local Association Secretary.
Guidance will be issued to schools by the Scottish Government around the additional payment of £400. Whilst it is not a universal payment per se, all staff who are involved in the delivery of qualifications, including the quality assurance aspects, will be eligible for the payment.
Members may have noticed the welcome announcement yesterday on the pay offer to NHS staff; our own negotiations have not yet produced a similar scenario!
The Extended Joint Chairs of the SNCT met on the 17 March 2021, to discuss the pay offer made by COSLA to teachers and associated professionals in response to the 2021-2022 SNCT Pay Claim.
The offer from COSLA is:
A 2% uplift for those earning up to £40,000; and
A 1% rise for those earning over £40,000 with a cap of £800
The teachers' side were clear that the offer was unacceptable as not only would it leave some members with below inflation pay increases but moreover the differentiated nature of the offer was contrary to the need for a universal percentage for all teachers and associated professionals at all grades.
Negotiations are ongoing and the next meeting of the Extended Joint Chairs will be held on 31 March.
EIS FELA members were involved in strike action yesterday, Thursday 25th March, following the failure of Colleges Scotland, the Employers’ side, to ratify an agreement brokered by their own negotiators in the dispute to uphold the professional role of the lecturer in FE and stop substitution by instructor roles with lower pay and poorer conditions. The national body will continue to support our college members and echoes the call for Colleges Scotland to “ratify the deal”.
Strike action is also on-going at Forth Valley College over the expansion of instructor posts at the expense of lecturer posts. West Lothian College members have also just voted for industrial action to stop the recent introduction of instructor posts there.
The EIS will be campaigning across the election period to promote our own EIS Manifesto for Education Recovery, not least being the demand for an end to temporary contracts and zero hour supply teacher arrangements.
An online "hustings" with representatives from the political parties is scheduled for 22nd April – so hold that date. Further details to follow.
The Women’s Committee of the STUC recently launched a petition in support of Universal Free School Meals for all children and young people of primary school, secondary school and nursery age.
Calling for access to Universal Free School Meals is also EIS policy, as an important step towards tackling the impact of poverty on education.
Members can find further information, and sign the petition, via the TUC platform Megaphone.
Several Councils close today for the holidays with most following next week. Please do try to enjoy some well-earned down time after an even more stressful year than normal.