EDUCATION: An overhasty return of all pupils to the classroom setting, could put at risk the progress made reducing rates of infection

By James Halfpenny, of the EIS

Teachers are obviously eager to see young people returning to classrooms, they are also very clear that this must be done safely. We are only one full week into the return of P1-3 and the impact of that needs to be assessed before final decisions are taken on next steps.

An overhasty return of all pupils to the classroom setting, could put at risk the progress that has been made in reducing rates of Covid infection during the lockdown period.

The First Minister has set out a desire for schools to develop a timetable model for the two weeks before Easter with the intention of abandoning it post Easter, with absolutely no cognisance of the workload pressures which that will create for already exhausted school staff, including teachers who will be focusing on providing additional support to students in the senior phase, currently working towards qualifications under a completely new assessment model.

This additional workload will be wholly disproportionate to the benefit that it will bring for students, whilst potentially undermining preparation work for qualifications.

Worryingly, the announcement by the Scottish Government of a planned full return to schools after Easter would suggest that physical distancing requirements currently in place for Senior Phase students may be removed despite the scientific evidence of the need for this mitigation. This will place those young people, and their teachers, at significant additional risk of contracting Covid in the run in to qualifications and, frankly, seems a reckless approach to be considering.

Indeed, we would push the government to go further and vaccinate school staff, improve school ventilation to combat, and to provide medial- grade face coverings for staff to combat Covid spread.

  • James Halfpenny is the Secretary of the EIS teachers’ union.

This additional workload will be wholly disproportionate to the benefit that it will bring for students, who are due to return to school post lockdown.

PRIORITY COVID-19 VACCINATIONS FOR TEACHERS 

Meanwhile, priority COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers and school support staff was raised in the Scottish Parliament this week by Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, a Democrat reporter writes.

Public Health Scotland statistics have shown that teachers have a 47% greater chance of getting COVID-19 than the general population, she says.

Jackie Baillie wants the Scottish Government to prioritise vaccinations for teachers and school support staff ahead of schools returning so that staff and pupils are safe.

Ms Baillie, left,  says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to prioritise teachers based on advice given by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations.

She added: “We all want to get our children back to school as soon as possible, but teachers and school support staff also need to be safe, especially if we want to ensure continuity of education.

“The Public Health Scotland statistics have shown that teachers have a 47% greater chance of getting COVID-19 than the general population.

“It is vital ahead of a return to education that teachers and support staff are vaccinated, to protect themselves, their families and students. Most importantly so that we can get education for our children back to normal as soon as possible.

“It’s disappointing that the First Minister is not considering this and I urge the Scottish Government to their own data and consider revising the guidance, so that teachers and support staff are vaccinated as soon as possible.”

 

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