Reopening of Schools - SSTA Advice

The SSTA has been contacted by a large number of members concerned about their safety and the arrangements for the return to schools in January following the Covid-19 statement made by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister on Saturday 19 December 2020.

The following was issued by Government on Monday 21 December - Arrangements for the phased reopening of schools in January 2021 – supplementary guidance. The guidance provides details regarding the phased start to the spring term 2021.  

This guidance supplements the existing Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance, and is specifically to support schools and local authorities over the period from 21 December 2020 until 15 January 2021. The aim is for a full return to school buildings and face-to-face learning and teaching for all children on 18 January. All aspects of the existing guidance and accompanying mitigations continue to apply while schools are open.

SSTA Advice
The SSTA was not consulted on the guidance and the document stills leaves a number of concerns. The SSTA will be raising these with the Government and offers the following initial advice to all members. Please note: the rise in infections and further knowledge of the new variant may alter the arrangements and new measures may be required.

School Reopening – teachers are required to be available for work on the date the day schools were expected to open in the first week in January. The school will only be open for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. Schools should have knowledge of the numbers required to be supervised and the staff (teaching and non-teaching) required to carry out this function. These children will not be following normal lessons. Schools should seek volunteers to assist with this provision as some teachers and members of their households, may have an underlying health condition, or are a part of a vulnerable group, must be protected.

Risk Assessments must be conducted. Members must not be required to attend school if they have not been assigned a specific child caring responsibility and given advice on procedures to be followed.

In-Service Days at the start of term should be conducted remotely and should be focussed on teacher assessment following the DFM’s decision to cancel next summer examinations. This was confirmed by the DFM at a recent meeting with SSTA.

Monday 11 January - children of key workers and vulnerable pupils are to remain in school and are expected to follow their normal timetable. The remaining pupils are to stay at home and begin ‘remote learning’. This will cause a major problem for schools as teachers cannot be expected to teach pupils in school and deliver remote learning to those not in school. Additional staff will be required to achieve this expectation.

Definitions - the SSTA would like to clarify the position of the following terms:

Remote Learning is when learning continues when pupils are working from home while teachers will be working in a place of safety (at home). At this point this will be the case up to Friday 15 January 2021.

Blended Learning is when some pupils are in school whilst others are required to work from home. These were the measures prepared last summer (but not implemented) for a return to school in August.

Online Learning is another term used for remote learning and requires teachers to provide suitable work for the pupils in their own classes. The teacher will devise work including shared resources from colleagues or other professional sources for pupils to carry out the required tasks.

Live Teaching is when instructions are given by a video link. Teachers or presenters are employed, trained and have control of the medium used to provide such instructions. There is no requirement for teachers employed in schools to provide live teaching for those pupils not in the classroom.

The SSTA view is clear that there is NO requirement for teachers to be involved in live video teaching. The SSTA has a number of safety and security concerns for both pupils and teachers that have not been considered by those who promote such activity in schools. No teacher must be pressurised into providing live video teaching.

Please see SSTA Advice on Online Communication 

Supply Teachers – The SSTA expects all local authorities to honour all contracts and ensure supply teachers are paid during the coming weeks.

The SSTA will be issuing further advice in due course. Further advice on SQA procedures and the impact on Working Time Agreements will follow in January

The SSTA advice to all members at this time is:

Enjoy your Christmas break, don’t make any plans for January as guidance is likely to change again.
All teachers need and deserve a break.

All members are advised to follow SSTA on Twitter to get the latest news and advice especially over the festive period whist the SSTA Office is closed.