Ahead of the First Minister’s decision on possible level 4 restrictions, Voice Community Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that contingency measures – including blended learning if necessary – for affected schools in level 4 areas, or where there are high levels of transmission in schools or their communities, are clearly stated and immediately available to schools.
Senior Professional Officer Dougie Atkinson said:
“Education and early years settings should remain open if at all possible for the sake of children’s education, welfare and mental health – but only if it is safe to do so. We must ensure that everyone is kept safe, and expect systems to be in place to ensure this.
“There is no substitute for face-to-face teaching and learning, and closing or partly closing schools must be a last resort, but settings and the general public need clear and well-communicated guidance from government about when and how contingency measures, such as blended learning, would be implemented.
“Schools and colleges must not become the scapegoats for wider failure to curb the spread of transmission in the community. However, it may be necessary to introduce blended learning and other safety measures, particularly for staff working with older children – including greater use of PPE and more widespread and available testing – in some schools to mitigate high levels of local community transmission.
“Colleagues and I will be seeking answers and reassurance from ministers and officials on behalf of our members.
“There must be rigorous systems for online learning if schools are forced to close or operate on a rota basis.
“Decisions on the future of exams must also be reviewed so schools and students can prepare, and those taking highers next year will not be unfairly disadvantaged because of any further disruption.
“Any additional measures that are introduced must take account of staff workload.
“Voice Community has expressed concern in the past over expectations on staff to live stream lessons. Safeguarding measures must be put in place to protect both teachers and pupils.
“We must not see teachers forced into teaching live lessons from home whilst also being required to care for and home-school their own children.
“We must also all stick to the rules on social distancing and other restrictions, and be guided by evidence-based scientific and public health advice guidance.”
BBC News: Covid in Scotland: Level 4 lockdown to be imposed in 11 council areas
The First Minister said that keeping schools open remained a priority, including in level four areas. She said that her view was that the harm done by closing schools significantly outweighed any impact that schools have on transmission. Ms Sturgeon said the Government would keep the guidance for schools under close review, and that a further evidence paper on school safety would be published by the Deputy First Minister tomorrow (18 November):
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - evidence on children, schools, early learning and childcare settings and transmission from COVID-19 - summary report 18 November 2020
Updates to COVID-19 protection levels 17 November 2020:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels 17 November 2020