Coronavirus in schools: Union fears teachers 'expendable'

One of the largest teaching unions in Scotland has told the Deputy First Minister of its concerns about rising levels of coronavirus, saying it fears teachers are being viewed as expendable.

The letter raises concerns over safety.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has written to John Swinney and all education spokespersons at the Scottish Parliament to highlight its concerns about the covid-19 Strategic Framework which will be discussed at Holyrood later today.

While noting that the tiered approach is intended to help manage the risk of covid-19 infection, the EIS has raised concerns over a lack of detail in the proposals – particularly related to schools.

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The letter highlights that: “The EIS shares the ambition for schools to remain open wherever possible, as long as this can be done safely for both pupils and staff,” but warns “concerns have deepened considerably as the level of community infection has risen sharply.”

The letter goes on to say: “The safety, and health and well-being of teachers requires specific consideration - an aspect significantly underplayed in the framework. It very much appears to our members that the Government has made a political priority of keeping schools open and in that calculation, teachers can be regarded as expendable.”

The EIS also called for remote learning for schools in areas under Level 4 restrictions.

The letter states: “In particular, the default position at Level 4 that schools are fully open when clearly we need to be looking at blended or remote learning as contingencies, seems to the EIS to be predicated on political messaging rather than controlling the spread of infection.The EIS letter goes on to highlight concerns over teachers in at-risk groups – such as those previously shielding, who are pregnant, or who from BME groups - “many of whom are currently being forced to attend workplaces by employers who have set themselves against clinically based advice that working from home should be the option used”.

In summing up, the letter states, “To be clear, EIS members supported schools reopening despite their own very real concerns around safety, and we absolutely agree that keeping schools open should be a priority, but they must be covid-secure environments. Schools cannot be kept open at any cost. They cannot be kept open at the expense of the safety of teachers and of other school staff.”