Members Bulletin 30 April 2020

COVID-19: Members Update
The situation with COVID-19 is changing constantly but the fundamental priority is keeping people safe. It is essential that everybody adheres to the Government guidance and do not put people at risk.
 
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) advice
HPS advice can be found at  https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/a-to-z-of-topics/covid-19/
The most recent ‘Core COVID-19 Information and Guidance for General (Non-Healthcare) Settings (version 4)' can be downloaded here

Community Hubs, Social Distancing and PPE
The teacher unions have been pressing the Scottish Government and COSLA for specific advice for Community Hubs and ASN settings for a number of weeks. This guidance will highlight the need for social distancing, the provision and use of PPE. It is anticipated that specific guidance will be circulated in the coming days.

The current Scottish Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19): social distancing in education and childcare settings can be found here  

SSTA Advice

  • Community Hubs must ensure a ‘risk assessment’ has taken place that includes the Scottish Governments’ advice on social distancing
  • Community Hubs must ensure the provision of necessary cleaning materials (including handwashing materials and hot water) and measures to prevent close contact before asking staff to attend
  • If you, or a member of your household, have an underlying health condition, or are a part of a vulnerable group, you must work from home
  • Community Hubs will be staffed by volunteers
  • Community Hubs need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff
  • Members must not attend work if you have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility and given advice on procedures to be followed

SQA and Teacher Professional Judgement
Please follow the link to the SQA process for estimating grades for the current examination diet.

The decision to focus on Teacher Professional Judgement in awarding grades for examinations in 2020 was a sensible approach to the difficult situation that has been created by COVID-19.

SSTA Advice

  • Detailed SSTA advice can be found here
  • It is essential that members use their professional judgement in estimating the final grades
  • It is essential that estimate grades are not shared with pupils and parents.

Supply Teachers
The SNCT Joint Secretaries letter Supply Teachers Job Retention Payment  (JS/20/78) confirms the commitment to ensure supply teachers suffer “no detriment”.

SSTA Advice

  • The Local Authorities should be contacting all supply teachers to confirm the arrangements for payment
  • Members are advised to inform their employer that they are available for work if they have not been contacted by their employer

Teacher Workload During Term 4
Unfortunately, many local authorities and schools have forgotten that schools are closed and the priority is supporting teachers in continuing learning during the school closure. The current situation is extremely stressful for both teachers and pupils. Schools should ensure that unnecessary pressure by ‘standing-down’ many of the normal activities that occur during this term. Many of these activities should be undertaken when schools reopen.

SSTA Advice

  • Main focus should be on teaching and learning
  • Members should not be required to submit daily lesson plans or records of work undertaken
  • Members should aim to follow their normal working pattern as far as possible
  • Careful consideration should be given to the workload implication of change of timetable that will create further workload problems when schools reopen
  • Members should not attend meetings at school
  • Current Working Time Agreements to remain in place until schools reopen
  • Current School Improvement Plans should remain in place until schools reopen

Finally

Social Distancing: Further Information & Advice

The situation is constantly changing and I would like to take the opportunity to give further information and advice.
More detailed SSTA advice to members can be found on the SSTA website.
 
Social Distancing: The latest Scottish Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19): social distancing in education and childcare settings can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing-in-education-and-childcare-settings/pages/social-distancing/

SSTA Advice

  • Schools must ensure a ‘risk assessment’ has taken place that includes the Scottish Governments’ advice on social distancing
  • Schools must ensure the provision of necessary cleaning materials and measures to prevent close contact before asking staff to attend
  • Schools need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff
  • Members must not attend work if you have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility and given advice on procedures to be followed

Community Hubs
Please find link to latest SNCT circular 20/75 School Closures. I would like to highlight the following:

Spring Break Community Hubs will be open over Spring Break for vulnerable children and for children of key workers who cannot make their own childcare arrangements. The Community Hubs should be staffed on a volunteer basis and any holiday time worked will be paid back (*either as pay or a time off in lieu to be taken during the normal summer term of session 2019-20.) Specific arrangements will be determined locally across each of the 32 Councils. Teachers on supply lists should also be given the opportunity to provide cover for Spring Break.

SSTA Advice

  • All teachers and pupils are on leave during the spring break
  • The community hubs will be staffed by volunteers who should have leave reallocated when the school session is due to return
  • Community Hubs need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff.
  • SSTA members who are well and able are encouraged to volunteer as part of a rota in the community hubs
  • Members who volunteer to support the community hubs must not attend if have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility.

Supply Teachers
The SSTA is pressing the SNCT to ensure that all supply teachers are protected during the national emergency. Negotiations are taking place to ensure that supply teachers suffer “no detriment” and we are hoping for a an agreement to be reached in the coming days

Pastoral and Guidance Teachers
There has been a high number of contacts from members who work in Pastoral Care and Guidance highlighting increased workload demands as a consequence of school closures and online learning.

       SSTA Advice

  • Moving to online education should not have changed previously agreed remits
  • Where it is possible, try to ensure that work previously done by others remains on their remit
  • Schools should have a strategic plan to manage pupil and parental contact for different issues to clarify who to approach for different queries
  • The strategic plan should be communicated to all staff
  • Normal procedures for pupils failing to engage with departmental work should still apply with Faculty Heads in the first instance
  • Unresolved concerns would apply to the appropriate members of Senior Leadership Team, Learning Support or Pastoral Care teams depending on the nature of these concerns.

Online Communication
The purpose of this advice is not to curtail freedom but to reduce teachers’ exposure to professional vulnerability.

Online working and remote learning is not normal for the majority of teachers and few staff have received much formal training in how to do much more than the basics. There is a lot of evidence that teachers, attempting to bridge the gaps left by local authority IT provision, are turning to using personal communications such as email, WhatsApp, texting, Zoom, Facebook messenger, FaceTime etc.  Existing IT provision in Glow (e.g. Google Meet and Teams)  has not been established with a view to widespread teaching, and teachers using Teams within Glow are reporting difficulties with access.  It may be a result of individual access.

SSTA advice is drawn from GTCS advice, which observes that:  ‘A teacher can be vulnerable to unintended misuses for electronic communication.  E-mail, texting and social media encourage casual dialogue and very often, very innocent actions can easily be misconstrued or manipulated’  (See: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/teacher-regulation/professional-guidance-ecomms-social-media.pdf ). 

Before asking teachers to engage in live video or audio calls to learners, a risk assessment should be carried out leading to robust guidelines for how such calls should be handled and tracked.  There will need to be protection for users at each end, with measures put in place to protect teachers from allegations of impropriety.  Issues to consider may include, but are not limited to: system security, retention of evidence, IT equipment location, auto-answer settings, background events/conversations, IT failure/resolution, child protection reporting procedures, observance of GDPR, etc. If members feel that sufficient protection is in place they may feel confident in accepting the risk.

SSTA Advice

  • Do not engage in live face to face or audio discussions with learners using online video or webchat
  • Only use official channels of communication e.g. GLOW and work e-mail addresses and be aware of and comply with employers policies and guidance
  • Do not exchange private phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses or photos of a personal nature with pupils
  • If recording video resources, take care to obscure anything in the background which may compromise your privacy or professionalism
  • Be aware that anything shared online is not private

The SSTA is engaged with Scottish Government and Education Scotland to issue advice to all teachers on safe online teaching. Further advice to be circulated at a later date.

Working from Home
Please find link to SSTA detailed advice on Working from Home.

SQA National Qualifications
Many schools and employers are asking staff to enter estimates for pupil attainment in SQA examinations.  The advice of the SSTA is that teacher should not enter estimates in any recording system,  such as SEEMIS,  until clear guidelines from the SQA have been issued.  It is hoped that such guidelines should give clear indication as to how these estimate grades may be reached so that all pupils are assessed in a similar manner throughout Scotland. However, discussions relating to pupil progress within departments will, of course, continue to take place, and it is likely that schools will be giving some consideration to what data they already have and how secure it is.

SSTA Advice

  • The SQA plans to provide further details on the estimation of grades required from teachers and lecturers to inform certification
  • Although pupils may be aware of target and estimate grades, teachers must not give pupils any assurances of anticipated final grades
  • It will be the duty of the SQA to inform learners of their formal grades and to ensure that certification processes are robust and defensible
  • Teachers should not be gathering any further coursework or any other materials
  • Members are not required to submit predicted grades at this time

 
Finally

School Closures: Further Information & Advice

The situation is constantly changing and I would like to take the opportunity to give further information and advice.
 
The SSTA advice to members can be found on the SSTA website.
 
School Closures
Please find link to latest SNCT circular 20/75 School Closures. I would like to highlight the following:
 
Spring Break Community Hubs will be open over Spring Break for vulnerable children and for children of key workers who cannot make their own childcare arrangements. The Community Hubs should be staffed on a volunteer basis and any holiday time worked will be paid back (*either as pay or a time off in lieu to be taken during the normal summer term of session 2019-20.) Specific arrangements will be determined locally across each of the 32 Councils. Teachers on supply lists should also be given the opportunity to provide cover for Spring Break.
 
SSTA Advice

  • The schools (not school buildings) will be closed during the spring break and members will not be required to provide materials for pupils.
  • All teachers and pupils are on leave during the spring break
  • The community hubs will be staffed by volunteers who should have leave reallocated when the school session is due to return.
  • Community Hubs need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff.
  • Members must not attend work if you have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility.

Working from Home
Please find link to SSTA detailed advice on Working from Home. I would like to highlight the following SSTA Advice:

Online Communication

  • Do not engage in live face to face or audio discussions with learners using online video or webchat.
  • Only use official channels of communication e.g. GLOW and work e-mail addresses and be aware of, and comply with, employers’ policies and guidance.
  • Do not exchange private phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses or photos of a personal nature with pupils.
  • If recording video resources, take care to obscure anything in the background which may compromise your privacy or professionalism.
  • Be aware that anything shared online is not private.

Teacher Workload and Reducing Bureaucracy

SSTA Advice

  • Members who volunteer to undertake child supervision duties should not be expected to provide online work, etc. for their normal classes during that time
  • Usual management procedures should apply and no additional procedures should be introduced
  • Members should not be asked to provide confidential or medical information on themselves or members of their households
  • No new paperwork for gathering evidence of pupil attainment or teacher professionalism should be developed
  • Members should not be required to submit daily lesson plans or records of work undertaken
  • Members should aim to follow their normal working pattern as far as possible
  • Members who have caring responsibilities should be encouraged to limit the time spent on work related matters
  • Members should focus their time on learning and teaching and not take on any other tasks required by others
  • Members should be allowed to manage their available time in a professional manner

SQA National Qualifications

SSTA Advice

  • The SQA plans to provide further details on the estimation of grades required from teachers and lecturers to inform certification as soon as possible
  • Although pupils may be aware of target and estimate grades, teachers must not give pupils any assurances of anticipated final grades
  • It will be the duty of the SQA to inform learners of their formal grades and to ensure that certification processes are robust and defensible
  • Teachers should not be gathering any further coursework or any other materials
  • Members are not required to, and SSTA advises members not to, submit predicted grades

Finally

COVID-19: Message to Members

The SSTA reaffirms the advice to members issued on Friday 20 March. Please follow this advice and all members will be supported in your actions by the SSTA.

The first consideration for members must be your own personal safety.

  • If you, or a member of your household, have any of the symptoms then you must follow the health guidance and isolate.
  • If you have an underlying health condition, or are a part of a vulnerable group, you must work from home.
  • If you have caring responsibilities and are unable to make alternative arrangements then you must stay at home.

Members who volunteer:

  • Please inform your Headteacher that you are available and that you wish to volunteer your services.
  • Schools must ensure a ‘risk assessment’ has taken place that includes social distancing, provision of necessary cleaning materials and measures to prevent close contact before asking staff to attend.
  • Schools need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff.
  • Do not attend work if you have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility.
  • Must avoid all unnecessary journeys.

Further updates for members on Home-Working and National Qualifications will follow in due course.
 

School Closures - SSTA Members Advice

The First Minister made a statement on Wednesday 18 March that all schools are closed as from the 17.00 on Friday 20 March. The closure of schools is on medical and scientific advice. There must be no normal lessons, including senior classes, taking place after this date as schools are closed.

Arrangements for making provision for children of key workers and vulnerable children in school buildings is at an early stage. The number of pupils and the number of staff (teacher and other workers) required has not been determined as yet.

Local authorities are making arrangements for meals for vulnerable children and this may involve the use of school buildings.

The detailed arrangements for pupils in S4 to S6 to meet the requirements of SQA during this emergency have not issued to schools. Until such time members are advised to work remotely and create no new work for pupils.

At this time no senior phase pupils should be in school and this was confirmed by the DFM John Swinney last night on television. No member should be asked to attend school to teach senior pupils at this time. SSTA would like to remind all members that it is important that teachers act professionally and with integrity during this difficult time. Any deviation from this may lead to claims of malpractice.

SSTA Advice

The first consideration for members is your own personal safety.

  • If you, or a member of your household, have any of the symptoms then you must follow the health guidance and isolate.
  • If you have an underlying health condition, or are a part of a vulnerable group, you must work from home.
  • If you have caring responsibilities and are unable to make alternative arrangements then you must stay at home.
  • If you are not able to attend work please inform your employer in the normal way. Early notice is important.

If you are fit for work

  • Please inform your Headteacher that you are available and that you wish to volunteer your services.
  • Schools must ensure a ‘risk assessment’ has taken place that includes provision of necessary cleaning materials and measures to prevent close contact.
  • Schools need to prepare a schedule for the supervision of pupils and a rota for available staff.
  • Do not attend work if you have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility. Avoid unnecessary journeys.
  • Do not attend work to take part in a meeting. This is an unnecessary risk.
  • All meetings must be conducted remotely.
  • All planning work should take place at home.

Supply Teachers

During this difficult time of staff shortages all supply teachers are required. If you are fit to work please inform your local authority and ask to be assigned to a school. Please follow the advice above.

The situation is constantly changing and we will issue further advice in the coming days.

COVID-19: Working at Home

Thursday 19 March 2020

The situation is still changing and it will change further this afternoon following the Deputy First Minister Statement. The SSTA will be issuing advice on Friday once the implications have been considered.

Please find a link to a COSLA document that was finalised on Wednesday evening. This document is focused upon ‘working at home’ and applies to all Local Authority employees. This hopefully clarifies the situation for teachers.

COVID-19: SSTA Members Update - 17 March 2020

The SSTA is in constant contact with the Government and employers regarding guidance to members and schools during this difficult time. The situation and guidance on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is continually updating and changing. I have tried to lay out the current position and guidance to help answer most of your questions. Please follow the link to previous advice.

The Government has made the decision to keep schools open where possible

“We recommend all educational settings remain open unless you have been advised by the local Health Protection Team to close. Children appear to be less affected than other age groups however handwashing should be encouraged before and after any activity, such as meal times, break times and sporting activities. Your local public health team will provide advice if you have had a symptomatic case of COVID-19 on site. At present school closure is not usually required but the local health protection team will support you to make a risk assessment”.

Please find below the links for updated information on COVID-19 from the HPS and SNCT. I have indicated the sections that will be helpful to you

Health Protection Scotland (HPS).The updated source of advice for all schools and educational settings
contains useful information and the following would be of particular interest to members:

1.4 Contact with a case of COVID-19
1.5 Actions to take if someone who may have COVID-19 becomes unwell whilst on site at your organisation
1.6 Environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) after a possible case has left a workplace or other non-healthcare setting
2.1. Employers and Businesses Employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others.
2.3. Educational settings

SNCT  - Emergency Provision CORONAVIRUS (COVID – 19): MAINTAINING CONTINUITY OF EDUCATION
Members attention is drawn to the following contained in the document:

(3) Class Arrangements
(4) Working Hours
(6) Relocation
(7) Self-Isolation
(8) Vulnerable Staff
(9) Pregnant Staff
(10) Care Arrangements

In addition, that latest announcements included

  • Everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres
  • Everyone should work from home if they can
  • All "unnecessary" visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease
  • People should only use the NHS "where we really need to" - and can reduce the burden on workers by getting advice on the NHS website where possible
  • By next weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be "largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks"
    • People over the age of 70
    • Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases)
    • Pregnant women

SSTA Advice

The first consideration for members is your own personal safety.

  • If you, or a member of your household, have any of the symptoms then you must follow the health guidance and isolate.
  • If you have an underlying health condition,  or are a part of a vulnerable group, you can only work in a place of safety which could be away from the school. The employer has a duty of care to ensure you are not put at risk.
  • If you have caring responsibilities then arrangements must be made to allow you to carry out these responsibilities.
  • If you are not able to attend work please inform your employer in the normal way. Early notice is important.

 The situation is constantly changing and we will issue further advice in the coming days.

COVID-19 - SSTA Advice to Members

The situation and guidance on COVID-19 is changing and will continue to change in coming days and weeks. The SSTA will continue to update you on any changes that may occur.

Please find below the official links for information on COVID-19.

NHS Scotland. COVID-19 can cause respiratory illness of varying severity. Currently, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for infection with the virus.https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

Health Protection Scotland (HPS). The key source of advice for all schools and educational settings including early learning and childcare settings.  https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/web-resources-container/covid-19-guidance-to-educational-settings/
Scottish Government guidance issued for education providers https://news.gov.scot/news/coronavirus-guidance-issued-for-education-providers


SSTA ADVICE TO MEMBERS

This advice is intended to reassure members of employment matters and the potential of exceptional measures being put in place by the employers/government. Members are advised to be aware of the following issues:

SELF-ISOLATION
Self-isolation involves staying indoors following the advice of a medical professional and avoiding contact with others where possible. It also means that members should remain at home and should not go to work, school or public areas or use public transport or taxis. Members who are undergoing self-isolation should advise their council immediately.

The situation of permanent and long term supply teacher is covered by the SNCT regarding the classification of the periods of self-isolation. Paragraph 6.34 of the Handbook applies when a teacher is self-isolating due to potential contact/travel from affected areas and is staying away from work to self-isolate.  This is the paragraph that sets out that paid leave should be provided with regard to contact with a notifiable disease:

Infectious Diseases
6.34 An employee who is prevented from attending the place of employment because of contact with notifiable infectious diseases, shall advise the council immediately and shall be entitled to full pay during absence. A period of absence, in this case, should not be reckoned against his/her entitlement to sickness allowance.

Please Note: SSTA expects teachers on a daily supply contract but have been undertaking regular work in the same school(s) over a number of weeks should be covered by the same SNCT paragraph.

SICKNESS
If a teacher becomes ill then normal sick pay arrangements and employer reporting arrangements apply. Members who are sick are not required to complete any work.

SCHOOL CLOSURES
Should a school be closed due to lack of staff/pupils to maintain the service the employer may require teachers to relocate to other schools where it is practicable. Travel expenses will be meet by the employer. However, should the school be closed for medical/containment reasons all staff and pupils should adhere to the medical guidance on self-isolation.

CARE ARRANGEMENTS
There could be a significant reduction of workforce due to care demands of young people, vulnerable persons and the elderly. In such circumstances Councils are required to be sympathetic to the pressures on staff. Councils will already have arrangements for granting leave with pay in these exceptional circumstances.

TEACHING AND LEARNING
The employers will be taking steps to maintain the continuity of education in the coming weeks. The focus for members during this time is to continue to prepare for teaching and learning, and the  normal preparations for the forthcoming national qualifications. However, members should not be expected to produce additional materials or qualification evidence.

WORKING FROM HOME
Requests may be made for teachers to work from home during school closures. Members should focus on their normal teaching commitment and not be diverted to additional tasks required by others. Where online facilities have been created within the school network members can submit work and answer sheets where appropriate for pupils when the school is closed. Members may be asked to take home laptops or tablets to assist with their work but must strictly adhere to the rules and procedures when asked to engage with individual pupils. Where these facilities are not in place work can be submitted to the school for posting to pupils. Please be aware that not all pupils have access to suitable computer facilities or broadband.

CHANGES IN TIMETABLE
Members should continue to work normally and follow the normal arrangements for covering absent colleagues. The employers should be providing additional supply teachers to all schools in an attempt to cover any potential loss of teachers in the coming weeks.

FUTURE ADVICE
The SSTA is involved in further discussions taking place within the SNCT regarding arrangements to be put in place if COVID-19 reaches a level that impacts on the education service.  Further guidance will issued.

For further information and advice please contact SSTA Head Office at info@ssta.org.uk or 0131 313 7300