First Minister Statement – Reopening of Schools 22 February 2021
The First Minister made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 2 February that it is her intention to reopen schools to some pupils on 22 February.
This decision is to be confirmed in two weeks (16 February 2021). The statement raised a number of issues that are still to be resolved as the detail had not been discussed with teacher unions.
The SSTA has been advised that updated reducing risks and mitigating risk guidance, together with the Education Scotland technical guidance regarding the limited senior phase return for practical activities, will be published by Friday 12 February.
We know that schools will start preliminary work in preparation for a possible reopening of schools on 22 February but the SSTA advises that:
- Detailed plans are delayed until the receipt of the guidance on mitigation measures, defined practical activities and number of pupils permitted is confirmed.
- Remote Learning will continue for all remaining pupils and additional time must be made available to undertake the additional preparation and correction
- 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 on the 18 June.
- Teacher numbers in schools must be restricted to a minimum to reduce the exposure to, and transmission of, the virus
- Teachers who are required to supervise pupils in school are unable to contribute to remote learning
- Vulnerable and shielding teachers must continue to work from home
- Teachers with child caring responsibilities must be encouraged to focus on remote learning from home
- All Risk Assessments must be reviewed in light of the new variant of Covid-19 and any changes to local authority level status
- Schools need to focus on teaching and learning and all other ‘normal’ school activities need to be withdrawn or deferred to a later date.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 by 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 3 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 are putting in place a testing system for all school staff. The testing kits are to be issued to schools in the coming weeks. 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. Trade unions in local authorities and individual establishments should be fully involved and consulted on the updating and revision of existing risk assessments.
Public Sector Pensions
The Government response to the consultation on the implementation of 2015 Public Sector Career Average Pension Scheme that was found to be discriminatory on grounds of age has been published.
The government will proceed with the deferred choice underpin. This approach will mean all eligible members are members of their legacy scheme for the period between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2022, known as the remedy period.
Eligible members retiring after implementation will get a choice of whether to take legacy or reformed scheme benefits for the remedy period when their pension benefits become payable. Legacy schemes will be closed in relation to service after 31 March 2022.
An accompanying leaflet provides a high-level summary of the government’s policies and who is affected by them can be found here. For full details of the consultation and Equality impact Assessment can be found here.
The Scottish Teachers’ Pension Scheme - Retirement Workshop
A recording of one a recent Retirement Workshop’s is now available to view on the SSTA website. The workshop, hosted by L-Life Ltd, concentrates on the decisions you will/are being faced with at retirement. The workshop runs for approximately 1 hour and looks at:-
- The Teachers’ Pension Scheme – how it works and the options that you have
- How you can top up your pensions in preparation for Retirement
- How to apply for your pension
- Money management & investment choices