Members' Bulletin - 22 September 2021

Safety First – We must keep all in schools safe

Covid-19 is still with us and it continues to cause disruption to schools. Teaching and learning is being challenged every day and unfortunately we are looking at a further period of strict adherence to mitigations. The latest government guidance has been enhanced and will continue until at least the October break. The increasing number of teacher and pupil absences due to Covid will again have an impact upon national qualifications in 2022.

The SSTA has constantly said, at all engagements with Government and employers since schools returned in August, that we are not back to ‘normal’ and our only focus must be on teaching and learning as the central part of education recovery.

There is a feeling that Covid is over and we are all back to normal. This is due to the lack of a national message to adhere to the mitigations to keep people in school safe. Each local authority is interpreting the government message differently and this is again different at school level. Headteachers are trying to keep schools open and keep pupils in schools but the mitigations and the tracing are slipping. Failure to adhere to the mitigations will lead to schools being closed due to the lack of teachers in the coming months.

The SSTA has pushed for the need for a clear consistent message from Government and an enforcement of mitigations in schools (including face coverings for all in secondary schools and clear definition of a ‘close contact’) if we are to keep schools open. The Government wants to reopen the economy and society but this can only happen if children are in school. Therefore, enhanced mitigations in schools that are different to elsewhere in society must be in place if keeping schools open is a priority.

The latest Government guidance ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools’ to ensure a low-risk environment for learning and teaching was released on the 15 September 2021.

The key changes that will apply:

  • updated information on vaccinations for 12-15 year olds
  • updated guidance on contact tracing in schools
  • a more targeted approach to the issuing of information
  • further advice/good practice on asymptomatic testing
  • inclusion of a link to additional UK-wide guidance on pregnancy

This together with the existing guidance that still applies. This includes:

  • Risk assessments to be continued
  • Environmental cleaning, hand and respiratory hygiene to continue
  • Ventilation - strengthened guidance for local authorities on CO2 monitoring
  • Face coverings in communal areas and secondary classrooms to continue
  • Physical distancing for adults at least 1m but 2m distancing expected to remain for logistical purposes
  • One way systems to be continued
  • Staggered start and stop times/ break and lunch times
  • Restrictions on assemblies
  • Support for people in the highest risk groups/pregnant staff
  • Restrictions on school visitors to continue

Mitigations are to be kept under constant review and, if data and evidence suggest that any specific mitigations can be removed at an earlier stage, advice will be provided to that effect

Teacher Pay Negotiations 2021 – No Developments

Since the meeting of the SNCT Extended Joint Chairs on 2 September on the 2021 pay claim there have been further developments. The Employers’ Side confirmed at the meeting that they were unable to make an improved offer but hoped to be in a position to do so soon. The current offer of 1.22% across all SNCT pay grades, backdated to April 2021, has already been rejected by the Teachers’ Side.

The Teachers’ Side (SSTA and EIS) made clear the frustration of members over the continued failure of their employers to make a reasonable pay offer and indicated that failure to make a substantially improved offer before the next SNCT meeting on 30 September would lead to declaration of a dispute.

The next meeting of the Extended Joint Chairs will be held in advance of the SNCT and members will be advised of progress following that meeting. Hopefully there will be some positive developments in the last week of September,

£400 Alternative Certification Model Payment

The one-off exceptional £400 payment for teachers supporting the delivery of the Alternative Certification Model for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications in 2020/2021 has been paid in some authorities. Unfortunately the ACM payment is still causing difficulties in some local authorities and this has been raised by the SSTA with the Scottish Government.

The SSTA reminds those members who believe that they have not received the correct payment should discuss

the matter with their Headteacher in the first instance.

For full details and SSTA advice please see the 17 June 2021 Members’ Bulletin.

Assessment of National Qualifications in 2021-22

The SQA has recently stated in the event of the SQA exams in 2022 being cancelled that teachers and lecturers would determine provisional results.

The SQA added that

Under this approach there is no requirement for schools, colleges and training providers to run additional assessments. Doing so would place excess workload on teachers, lecturers and learners. Provisional results would be based on in-year assessments that normally take place during the school year such as prelims, practical activities, performances and class tests”.

Unfortunately, returning to the exam diet with an alternative of assessment in the event of further disruption to schools as a consequence of the pandemic has the potential for increased numbers of exams and assessment tasks in schools. This will only add to teacher workload and pressure on pupils during this school year. The SSTA was not consulted on the arrangements for 2021-2022 and has been excluded from the National Qualifications Group by the SQA. The SSTA has met with Cabinet Secretary to push for the voice of the secondary school teacher to be heard.

The SSTA advises all members to take the SQA at its word and not alter their normal arrangements for national qualifications by discouraging the use of valuable time for both teachers and pupils on additional and unnecessary assessment processes.

Education Reform

The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Ken Muir as an independent advisor on education reform.

The reform includes the work of the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland.

The SSTA is represented on the Practitioner and Stakeholder Advisory Group (PSAG) and has had initial discussions with Professor Muir. At this stage SSTA is still considering its position on the way forward and will be engaging with members in the coming weeks. In addition SSTA will be holding a policy congress on the Saturday 2 October (further details to follow).

Please find a link to a presentation from Professor Muir that outlines the remit and timescales for the review. A consultation process is due to begin at the end of September.

Webinars have been arranged on the reform of the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland as an opportunity to hear first-hand about this work.

Each session will take place from 4.30 pm till 6.00pm and follow the same format. The selection being offered

is in order to provide options for dates, and to allow as many people to attend one of the sessions as possible:

SSTA Membership – A must for all Secondary School Teachers

The pandemic has made the recruitment of student and newly qualified members extremely difficult and we welcome your support in encouraging new colleagues in to the Association. Students in training and new entrants to the profession pay no subscription for sixteen months from the date of their teaching post. So please help to recruit your new colleagues to the only secondary specialist teachers’ union in Scotland.

All new members to the Association can benefit from our new special offer of 50% off the normal subscription for the first 12 months of paid membership when completing a direct debit with their application. This represents a saving of up to £95.00 a year based on the current 2021 subscription paying by monthly direct debit. Terms & Conditions apply

Click here to complete the online enrolment form and join the SSTA

SSTA says ‘Put Teachers at the Centre’