'You have the lives of school staff in your hands'

In an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, Allan Crosbie says educational recovery must not be at the cost of staff health
23rd November 2020, 9:56am
Allan Crosbie

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'You have the lives of school staff in your hands'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/you-have-lives-school-staff-your-hands
Coronavirus & Schools: Some Blended Learning Is Essential To Keep Schools Safe, This Teacher Tells Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon

Dear first minister,

"Life shouldn't feel normal right now, so if your life still feels entirely normal, ask yourself if you are doing the right things."

You'll remember your own words from March this year. They were well said.

But teachers, school cleaners, clerical and catering staff, janitors and pupil support assistants in those regions that have just entered Tier 4 of the Covid local protection levels are now asking themselves slightly different questions:

  • If life doesn't feel like the Tier 3 "normal" any more for everyone else in our neighbourhood, but it still feels like it in our workplaces, how exactly is the Scottish government doing right thing by us?
  • If schools are to be fully open in Tier 3 with "enhanced protective measures" and fully open in Tier 4 with "enhanced and targeted protective measures", what does the word "targeted" mean and what precisely do these additional new measures look like in our schools?
  • If previously shielding pupils have been protected by being told to work at home, why has no directive been issued to protect our previously shielding, pregnant and vulnerable colleagues?

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And these staff are fast coming to the realisation that you have no response to offer, because the truth is that right now your government is doing wrong by workers in schools, has no "targeted" measures for Level 4 because they are completely fictitious, and is hypocritical when it comes to paused-shielding teachers and school support staff.

Coronavirus: Give school staff protection

The right thing to do is to issue - immediately - a new education directive to all local authorities that obliges them to send all vulnerable school staff to work from home as soon as an authority enters Level 4. It's no good leaving vulnerable workers to make their cases individually with their employers, as the deputy first minister, John Swinney, asserted last week - that's a Level 3 state of affairs.

Doing this will, of course, necessitate some form of blended learning for all schools in Level 4 - this is the targeted measure that you should be up front about. With blended approaches, physical distancing between pupils can become possible, and infection rates in schools will come down; if they don't then you have a duty to define the triggers in levels of infection and pupil absences that should demand a move to fully remote learning as the better educational option, as well as the safer option.

All of us who work in schools are committed to educational recovery for our pupils, but that effort should not be at the cost of the health, or the life, of a single vulnerable school staff member.

You have their lives in your hands, first minister. It's time to do the right thing by them.

Yours sincerely,

Allan Crosbie

Allan Crosbie is a principal teacher of English and a member of the EIS union's national executive committee

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