New Scottish government guidance is calling for the existing education workforce to be “fully utilised” by councils, as it acknowledges increasing teacher numbers will be “critical” if Scottish schools are to deliver home and in-school learning.
At a time when staff absence is likely to be higher, the Scottish government has already said the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is looking to persuade newly retired teachers or teachers who have allowed their registration to lapse to return to the profession.
In its latest guidance on reopening schools out today, it also called on councils to ensure that their supply teacher lists were up to date and suggested they considered taking on “post-probation teachers who have not yet secured permanent employment”.
The guidance also highlighted that councils should “take into account the additional flexibilities that have already been put in place to support the delivery of education in this new context”. This included the temporary changes to teachers’ terms and conditions “to adapt to the pandemic”, it said.
Devised in March – with the agreement of the teaching unions – these changes include that “the normal contractual hours of teachers may be subject to temporary alteration”.
The new guidance, Coronavirus (COVID-19): re-opening schools guide, says: “There will be a specific workload pressure arising from the need to adapt existing resources to align with a blended model, providing in-school learning for an increased number of groups and support for offsite learning. The deployment of additional staffing is expected to be critical to ensuring this can be managed.”
A survey of more than 26,000 teachers published in full this week by the EIS teaching union found that 17.5 per cent of Scottish teachers were part of the group considered to be at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19 and told not to leave the house.
The Scottish government also expects more teachers to be absent when schools reopen on 11 August because they have Covid-19 symptoms.
However, when schools reopen in August they are likely to need more teachers than ever thanks to the smaller class sizes needed to deliver social distancing rules, as well as the need to deliver learning in school, and at home.
Other key messages in the guidance include:
- “In certain limited circumstances”, the two-metre physical distancing rule could not reasonably be applied, including with “younger primary school children” who take part in play-based learning, and children with ASN who would need “bespoke approaches”.
- Schools should make as much use as possible of outdoor space – the advice suggested they could increase capacity; make social distancing easier; and “limit transmission” by increasing outdoor learning. The guidance suggested the use of temporary shelters, mobile classrooms and “geodomes”, as well as polytunnels and canopies.
- Indoors, dining halls or games halls could be “repurposed” to provide classroom accommodation using temporary screens, it said. The suggestion that libraries and leisure centres could be used was reiterated but the guidance acknowledged “the use of these other spaces will raise complexities around staffing, cleaning, catering and transport if pupils are split across multiple sites”.
- In secondary, teachers could move around buildings instead of students, it said. The document added: “Reducing the amount of pupil circulation minimises contact with surfaces such as door handles which can help reduce virus spread.”
- Pupils should be encouraged to remain on site for lunch “wherever possible to minimise unnecessary interactions with others off the school premises”.
- Staggered drop-off and pick-up times were recommended so that not all children arrive on site at one time.
- Staggered lunches should also be considered, as well as whether it would be beneficial for pupils to stay in classrooms to eat.
- Number of staff using staffrooms and bases at any one time should be limited.