Teachers balloted over Christmas school closures

The ballot of Glasgow teachers follows the council’s refusal to move to online learning before and after Christmas

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Teachers are being balloted over Christmas school closures

The EIS teaching union is balloting its members in Glasgow schools after its request to move teaching and learning online for a few days before and after Christmas was rejected.

The union says the council also failed to consider moving to blended or remote learning when it was moved into level 4 – the highest coronavirus alert level.

As a result, the EIS says the council is failing to fully exercise its duty of care to staff.

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The ballot, which has gone to all EIS members employed by Glasgow City Council – across early years, primary and secondary schools – is open until midday on Monday.

Coronavirus: Calls for schools to close early for Christmas

Members are being consulted on whether the local association should declare a formal trade dispute with the council, with the local association recommending they vote "yes".

If there is a mandate to declare a dispute with the employer, the union has said this declaration will be made before the EIS decides on issuing a further consultative ballot on industrial action.

The news of the ballot in Glasgow follows a letter sent yesterday to councils from EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan warning that it would hold them “solely responsible” for failing to move to online learning by 18 December at the latest.

Such a move, he said, would allow teachers to feel they could safely see or visit family over Christmas and would also reduce the likelihood of staff being required to support coronavirus contact tracing activities.

Glasgow schools are due to break up for the Christmas holidays on Tuesday 22 December.

Susan Quinn, EIS Glasgow local association secretary, said: “The EIS has tried to work with the employer on ensuring safe workplaces since the beginning of the pandemic. Our members care deeply about the education and safety of Glasgow’s children and young people. That is why they know that schools and educational establishments should not remain open ‘at all costs’.

“We have simply asked the council to consider moving to remote learning for a few days before and after the Christmas holidays, which it is within their power to do, and to outline their triggers and plans for remote and blended learning.

“The council have, so far, refused on both accounts. We want to get an outcome which ensures the safety of our members in order that they can continue to provide quality and nurturing education.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to working with our staff and professional associations to make our schools and nurseries as safe as possible during these challenging times and in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic.”

In a letter to the local EIS branch this week, Glasgow City Council education director Maureen McKenna said: "There should be no move to blended or remote learning unless this is based on local public health advice, following an outbreak involving a school or where the local authority judges it is not safe to open the school physically, for example due to a shortage of staff. 

"We have taken the decision to close schools and nurseries during the pandemic where we judge it not to be safe. We do not have a policy of staying open at all costs."

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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