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Education / Union’s home learning request ‘justified’ by new school arrangements

Photo: Shetland News

EXTENDING remote learning for schoolchildren to the end of January “justifies” concerns raised by the local branch of teaching union EIS last month.

That is the view of local EIS association secretary Matthew Moss after the Scottish Government extended the closure of schools to the majority of pupils due to the rising number of Covid cases in the country.

In December when the school holidays were as planned, the local EIS association unsuccessfully asked Shetland Islands Council to introduce remote learning either side of the festive break as a “buffer” to protect staff and allow families to isolate before going into Christmas bubbles.

The Scottish Government, however, subsequently imposed remote learning up to 18 January amid concern over the new strain of coronavirus, and now that date has been shifted to 1 February.

Children of keyworkers and vulnerable bairns can attend school in person.

Moss said the latest move is supported by the EIS, and added that he felt it vindicated December’s request.

“Although this was declined the subsequent decisions by the Scottish Government to initially move to remote learning for one week and now the whole of January justifies our concerns at the time,” the Shetland representative said.

“Social distancing amongst pupils is extremely challenging in classrooms and school buildings, moving to remote learning is the correct decision if we are to successfully drive down community infection levels.

“Suppressing the virus is key to school buildings safely reopening. In Shetland the local prevalence of the virus means that any review of school openings should be treated as carefully as the rest of the country.”

Moss said that nationally the EIS has raised with the Scottish Government the question of prioritising vaccinating school staff as a way of allowing school buildings to reopen for all pupils.

Yesterday (Monday) first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the government would look at how it could speed up the vaccination of teachers and school staff.

“However, there are many other groups with equally compelling arguments, and it should not in my view become a competition,” Moss added.

“The priority must be public health and therefore the need for as many vaccinations and as quickly as possible remains the key to getting out of this pandemic and fully reopening schools.”