Schools could face staff shortages under new 'blended' teaching plan

More than 15,000 registered teachers are being asked to return to classrooms to help implement a new ‘blended’ teaching model during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools across Scotland, which are set to reopen in August, are preparing to adapt classrooms and provide regular distance learning - but unions have warned that less than half of teachers believe social distancing has been maintained at all times in ‘hubs’.And it has been warned that schools could face staff shortages due to some teachers shielding, and reducing class sizes by two-thirds would place additional pressure on staffing levels.A return date of 11 August has been promised by the Scottish Government, and the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) will contact more than 15,000 teachers on its register, asking them to get in touch with local authorities should they wish to return to the classroom.Class sizes could be reduced to ten pupils with most children receiving part of their teaching in schools with social distancing measures - and the rest at home with digital learning.Guidance issued by the Scottish Government to schools and local authorities warns the new model of teaching “may lead to requirements for workforce flexibility and increased staffing”, and “more teachers or support staff being needed for a greater number of smaller classes”.However, a survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union found only 44 per cent of those asked felt that social distancing of two metres had been maintained at all times in the schools that have remained open for children of key workers.But the EIS has warned the blended learning model will be “potentially the biggest curriculum challenge of this century”, and 77 per cent of those surveyed believed ‘adequate time’ was needed to prepare for the new model.EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The smaller teaching groups that will be essential to maintaining social distancing will place significant strain on staffing levels in many schools.“Moving from class sizes of as many as 33 pupils to groups of perhaps ten at a time will inevitably mean schools will require a greater number of teaching staff.“Added to this, any teachers who are in a vulnerable group or who are required to self-isolate will clearly not be available to work within a school environment.“The planned return in August presents huge challenges for all those working in education and so must be managed in a way that is realistic, achievable and safe.”Teachers will begin going back to school from today (Mon) as they start to draw up plans for a new way of providing education to pupils.Patrick Roach, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), has warned more burden cannot be placed on teachers as they adapt to their working life in the ‘new normal’.He said: “We have made it clear to ministers that schools must factor into their planning the impact of staff absences due to the continuing need to protect teachers who are clinically vulnerable and the likelihood of higher than normal sickness leave rates.“Where schools are operating with fewer staff the answer cannot and must not be to add additional workload on to other teachers or for safety measures to be compromised in any way.”Ken Muir, chief executive and registrar of the GTCS, said: “In the meantime, and to maintain public confidence, we suggest teachers who are registered with GTC Scotland, who hold a current PVG and who are interested in returning to teaching, contact the local authority they wish to support.“As employers, local authorities can provide further advice at this time.“There are currently 76,643 people on the register of teachers, with 61,349 employed in schools.”The National Education Union (NEU) has been approached for comment.

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Teachers' leaders have warned that reduced class sizes under Scotland's new 'blended' schooling plan could mean staff shortages and risk social distancing rules being broken

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