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Education / Council not swayed by request to introduce remote learning around Christmas

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison pictured in February.
SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) is to stick with its original plans for the Christmas holidays after being asked by teaching union EIS to consider bringing in remote learning for schoolchildren either side of the festive period.

A request for remote learning to be in place between 18 December and 11 January was sent to the council this morning (Monday).

The EIS believes moving to remote learning across Scotland at the end of term would “minimise the risk for staff, pupils and parents of infections ruining the Christmas break”.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison said that while she considered the request for distant learning, she has decided to “maintain the approved term dates for Shetland schools”.

She highlighted the low incidence of coronavirus in Shetland, adding that “public health advice is that there would be less transmission of Covid-19 through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school”.

“School is also a significant protective factor for vulnerable children and the longer children are out of school the greater the chance of hidden harm to them,” Sandison said.

The EIS union was left disappointed recently after the Scottish Government did not introduce remote learning around Christmas, and has been contacting local authorities itself on the matter.

The union said part of its request was to ensure senior staff did not find themselves having to work during the Christmas break to deal with any Covid outbreaks.

Sandison, however, said that a return to remote teaching – which was in place in the early stages of the pandemic – “could cause significant difficulties for working parents including our key workers”.

“Head teachers were advised last Thursday afternoon that there would be no changes to the term dates and making changes at this point could cause more uncertainty and logistical challenges for everyone,” she said on Monday.

“Staff, young people and parents and carers, have already faced many changes throughout 2020, which have inevitably affected their sense of wellbeing, and I do not wish to add to that burden.

“Schools will therefore close on 22nd December as planned and children and young people will return on Thursday 7th January 2021.”