Telling staff to attend school is 'breaking the law'

Unless teachers are needed to supervise children still attending school, they should be working from home, says union
5th January 2021, 4:33pm
Emma Seith

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Telling staff to attend school is 'breaking the law'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/telling-staff-attend-school-breaking-law
Coronavirus: Councils Telling Staff To Attend School Are Breaking The Law, Says The Ssta

Councils that instruct teachers to attend school this week are breaking the law, according to a Scottish teaching union.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) says that councils will be infringing new laws if they demand that staff attend school in person this week.

In a tweet, the SSTA said: "New laws that will require people to stay at home and work from home. Some [local authorities] are breaking the law instructing all teachers to attend work."

The SSTA says all teachers should be working from home unless they are needed to supervise the learning of vulnerable children and key workers' children. But in a letter to Scotland's education secretary, John Swinney, it said some councils were "intent upon instructing staff to report to school in contravention of public health advice".


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The union has also raised concerns about the "critical" situation that additional support needs teachers find themselves in.

The union said most authorities had planned for additional support needs (ASN) pupils to return to school "as normal" this week but argued that - in light of the new lockdown - that position needed to be revisited.

New laws that will require people to stay at home and work from home. Some LAs are breaking the law instructing all teachers to attend work .@JohnSwinney

The SSTA advises members: Teachers should only attend school if they have been assigned child supervision duties

- SSTA (@SSTAtradeunion) January 5, 2021

First minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday announced a legal requirement for Scots to stay at home for the duration of January, with schools now closed to the majority of pupils until at least Monday 1 February.

Coronavirus: ASN teachers 'need further protection'

Ms Sturgeon said the new, more transmissible, Covid-19 variant had placed Scotland in "a perilous situation" that was "more serious than at any time since the outset of the pandemic".

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said ASN teachers and their pupils were now "at real risk" and needed "further protections to keep safe". He called for authorities planning to allow all ASN pupils to attend to carry out "an urgent review of these arrangements".

An ASN teacher from Fife told Tes Scotland that it was basically "business as usual" at her school.

The teacher, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are still to open fully to all pupils from Thursday as Fife are classing all ASN school pupils as vulnerable."

The teacher added: "I believe that we should have a blended learning approach as this would allow some degree of physical distancing between adults and reduce the number of households mixing in one room. As usual, ASN has been left out of clear guidance."

An ASN teacher working under North Lanarkshire Council, meanwhile, said the staff in their school were expected to return to school tomorrow. As yet, the teacher said, it was unclear how many pupils would be attending. Staff were "terrified", said the teacher, but school was the only respite for many families.  

Some Scottish teachers started back at work today, with all school staff due back at some point this week, although remote learning is not scheduled to start until Monday 11 January.

Scottish Borders Council school staff were due back at work today. The council told Tes Scotland that it had previously asked all teachers to attend their schools, but it had changed that advice in light of Ms Sturgeon's statement.

One Borders headteacher said that his staff were all working from home "unless absolutely required in school" to supervise vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Teachers in mainstream schools in North Lanarkshire told Tes Scotland they had been told to come into school tomorrow and that staffing arrangements would be put in place after that based on the number of pupils attending.

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said a closure day had been agreed with the Scottish government for tomorrow for planning purposes, but not all staff were expected to come into school.

The spokeswoman said: "For Wednesday, staff should attend in person only where necessary for planning purposes. For example, some staff may need to undertake training to support them to deliver online teaching, some staff may be needed in to make packs of work to be delivered to families. Some may be needed for other tasks. Online meetings should be the preferred method of meeting rather than in-person."

Today at her first daily coronavirus briefing of 2021, Ms Sturgeon said it was "only permissible to leave home to go to work if you cannot work from home".

However, yesterday when Ms Sturgeon was asked by Labour's education spokesman, Iain Gray, to provide clarity for teachers "unsure whether they should plan to go into school", she said her "key advice" to teachers was "to take their guidance from their employer".

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