First Minister Statement – Reopening of Schools 22 February 2021
The First Minister made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 16 February to confirm the intention to reopen schools to some pupils on 22 February.
Following this announcement the government also published their related guidance:
The updated reducing risks and mitigating risk guidance, together with the Education Scotland technical guidance regarding the limited senior phase return for practical activities, that was published on 12 February and which is available here
The guidance includes
- Strengthened requirement for pupils and staff in secondary schools to adhere to 2 metre physical distancing
- Wearing of face coverings for all pupils and adults in communal areas in schools
- Wearing of face coverings of all senior phase pupils and adults in classrooms
- Adherence to strict ventilation requirements and the installation of fixed and mobile C02 monitoring equipment in classrooms
The SSTA in addition expects
- 2 metre physical distancing for all staff and pupils will be enforced in secondary schools
- That all pupils and staff will be required to wear face coverings at all times including the provision of FP2 masks
- Pupils who refuse to follow safety guidance, including the wearing of face coverings, cannot be accommodated in school
- All risk assessments are reviewed and additional measures introduced
- Parental expectations need to be managed as teachers in school will not be able to continue to support remote learning.
We are aware that schools have already made plans in preparation for the limited reopening of schools on 22 February but the SSTA advises that the following key areas are addressed:
- Only those practical activities required for National Qualification assessment are undertaken and number of pupils is limited to remain below the caps given by the government.
- Remote Learning for all remaining pupils cannot be undertaken at the same time as practical work or supervising vulnerable and/or key workers children in hubs.
- We recommend that supply teachers are used to support remote learning and/or supervision in hubs to ensure as little mixing as possible between these learners.
- Plans for a change of timetable during the summer term must be deferred as teaching and learning for senior pupils will need to be continued until the submission of qualification grades which has been further extended to 26 June.
- Teacher numbers in schools must be restricted to a minimum to reduce the exposure to and transmission of the virus, and mixing between groups of learners limited.
- Vulnerable and shielding staff must continue to work from home.
- Teachers with child caring responsibilities should be encouraged to focus on remote learning.
- All Risk Assessments must be reviewed in light of the new variant of Covid-19
- Schools need to focus on teaching and learning and all other ‘normal’ school activities need to be withdrawn or deferred to a later date. This includes, parental consultations, annual pupil reports, tracking and monitoring, etc.
- All changes in working practices need be agreed in the school’s Working Time Agreement Committee.
Government Covid-19 Advice
The ‘Advice from the Covid-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues’ has been revised and published on 12 February 2021
This document outlines the phased return to in-person learning in schools and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings. It includes the evidence to support the Government’s decision and mitigations necessary to support a safe return.
Asymptomatic Testing of School Staff
The Scottish Government has put in place a voluntary testing system for all school staff. The testing kits have been issued to schools. Tests are to be undertaken twice a week. Please see the ‘Asymptomatic Testing in Scottish Primary, Secondary and Special Schools, and ELC Providers – fact sheet’
Following a meeting with the local authorities it has been agreed that all Risk Assessments must be under constant review, particularly in light of the new variant, and that the Government guidance needs to be followed at the appropriate level for each local authority. Trade unions in local authorities and individual establishments should be fully involved and consulted on the updating and revision of existing risk assessments.
Supply Teacher Survey
The recent SSTA supply teacher survey has highlighted the seriousness of their issue with a lack of work, particularly in the Secondary sector, where well over half of our respondents (56.25%) reported that work was no longer available due to lockdown. Less than a fifth of respondents (19.27%) had been contacted by their employers about their availability and we would therefore strongly advise all supply teacher members to ensure that they have made contact with employers directly to indicate their availability. We continue to press for better use of supply teachers to support the recovery process especially in light of the recent announcement on 16 February of further funding for this too.
Details are available on the Scottish Government website.
Making better use of supply teachers should also address some of the workload concerns for permanent teaches and aid infection control by limiting mixing between groups in school.