On the 2 March the First Minister announced proposals for the return of secondary school pupils. The First Minister added that the plans are conditional on continued progress on suppressing coronavirus (COVID-19). The statement included:
- All secondary pupils will return on a part-time basis from 15 March - it is the intention that all secondary school pupils will return to spend some time in school from 15 March until the Easter break.
- Councils will decide how to balance safely in-school learning for secondary school learners based on local circumstances and needs.
- Senior phase students (S4-S6) who are taking national qualifications will have priority for face-to-face lessons in school.
- Vulnerable young people and the children of keyworkers to continue to be supported in school
- Remote learning will continue in parallel for all secondary school learners.
- Face coverings to be worn at all times by staff and young people in secondary school.
- A greater emphasis should be placed on good ventilation.
- Strict 2 metre distancing to be observed in the school building in secondary schools.
- Secondary schools should look to minimise movement of young people and staff when in school
- It is expected that all secondary school pupils will be back in school on a full time basis after the Easter holidays.
Education Scotland subsequently produced ‘Guidance for in-school and remote learning S1 – S6,’ intended to give further assistance to schools:
In addition, the Government is also preparing supplementary ‘Reducing Risks Guidance,’ expected to be published on Monday 8 March.
The SSTA Position
The First Minister’s statement has created serious operational problems for schools by trying to accommodate all pupils at some point during the weeks preceding the Easter break.
The SSTA had been expecting an increase in senior pupils before Easter should there be progress on suppressing the virus. This could be managed if schools were able to ensure all mitigations were in place, such as 2 metre physical distancing, face coverings for all, appropriate ventilation, and the review of all risk assessments, with all vulnerable and shielding staff remaining at home and expected to support remote learning.
The arrangements for pupil return and managing parental expectations has been left to the schools. This will only add to the pressure on teachers trying to meet pupil needs and ensure good parental communication. Schools are encouraged to work with trade unions to ensure safety measures are in place to protect both pupils and staff. Timetables and opportunities for pupil engagement need to be realistic and should not add to teacher workload. Parents need to be aware that this is a limited return to face to face engagement and as a consequence there will be a reduction in remote learning provision.
In an effort to support members in the preparations for the 15 March the SSTA has arranged an online School Representatives’ Briefing on Monday 8 March at 4.00pm.
Further details for the School Reps’ Briefing will be sent separately. If your school does not have a rep please contact the SSTA office for further information by email at firstname.lastname@example.org