Welcome to SEJ Digital October 2020
COVID Struggle Continues Across Scottish Education
The struggle against the COVID pandemic continues in all parts of society, with education facing many challenges in keeping staff and learners safe and ensuring a sound environment for learning and teaching.
Teaching staff have been under great pressure throughout the pandemic. The lockdown period threw teachers and learners into an extremely challenging situation, with new methods of delivery requiring to be developed at extremely short notice.
The very late change announced by the Scottish Government – that schools would re-open on a full time basis after the summer – compelled teachers to abandon weeks of planning on blended learning models and scramble to re-plan for a completely different approach with only a few days to prepare.
The evidence from the national EIS survey is that the overwhelming majority of teachers supported the re-opening of schools – but they also wanted this to be done in a way that mitigated the threat of potential COVID infection spreading.
A great deal of work has been undertaken, locally and nationally, by EIS Representatives to ensure that local authorities are taking the required steps to keep staff and students safe. Disputes were declared in two local authority areas where sufficient mitigations had not been put in place, leading to those councils taking action to improve school safety measures.
Issues remain over many aspects of current mitigations – including over the lack of physical distancing in many schools, lack of adequate protections for teachers who were previously shielding, concerns over ventilation and heating in classrooms, and serious questions over some councils’ attitudes to ensuring the safety of pregnant teachers.
As we highlight in the Council News report in this edition, the EIS is continuing to pursue all of these, and more, issues with the Scottish Government and local authorities. Many concerns are being resolved at a local level, with school branches and EIS Local Associations taking the lead, while the EIS main body continues to push for proper protections at a national level.
Supporting education recovery for young people continues to be a key issue too, as we explore in this edition’s features on Education Recovery, Pedagogy and the Curriculum and on the future of assessment and qualifications in the COVID world and beyond.
COVID-19 looks likely to be with us for the rest of the year, and well into 2021. It will continue to dominate education, and the work of the EIS, for many months to come. As ever, the main focus of the institute will continue to be protecting Scotland’s teaching professionals, and the best interests of Scottish education.