The co-leader of an Aberdeen teaching union has accused the Scottish Government and local authorities of “empty rhetoric” over the safeguarding of teachers as a new, more infectious variant of Covid-19 inches north.
Ron Constable, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union joint secretary in Aberdeen, said a recent survey of 450 staff in the Granite City “really highlights the concern that is out there among teachers”.
The union boss also called for blended and remote learning to be continued in schools as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the Education Recovery Group will meet later today.
He said: “We got nearly 100 comments back from our surveyed teachers and the worry I saw about going back to school while the virus is so virulent in the community really brought it home for me
“Remember, teachers have to go into a classroom with 33 children from 33 different families.
“When they say they value the work that teachers do and the pressure that they’re undertaking it is empty rhetoric, really – because in the next sentence they’re telling them to get back into schools.”
Mr Constable said the reintroduction of blended and remote learning to be continued in north-east schools until authorities have more information about the new strain of Covid-19.
He said: “In the last few weeks before the holidays we saw an increase in cases and the number of young people and adults who are having to self-isolate, and it’s very likely that trend will continue.
“Our point of view is that there should be blended and remote learning in place – especially because of this new strain.
“Teachers are already jittery about the old strain and with the vaccine just fingertips away it would make sense to maintain a blended form of learning beyond January 18, depending on how well we are able to contain the virus.”
Mr also confirmed that EIS Union will meet next week to discuss alternatives to strike action over the situation.
He said: “We absolutely don’t want to go into industrial action and in a dispute you always want time to talk it through to see if we can avoid it – but if it has to come to that then we will ballot our members on the idea of going into dispute.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The safety and wellbeing of pupils and school staff is our top priority.
“Guidance was issued on 21 December regarding the detailed arrangements for schools after the festive break.
“It provides clarity for learning arrangements through to Friday 15 January.”