Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): re-opening schools guide

Non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools in their planning for a safe, phased opening in August 2020.

Workforce planning

The blended model of education that we expect to see for a period of time under Scotland’s Education Recovery Framework may lead to requirements for workforce flexibility and increased staffing.

These may stem from, for example, more teachers or support staff being needed for a greater number of smaller classes (whether in the usual education setting or alternative venues), alongside a requirement to provide support for home learning and wider support for children and young people. They may also stem from a requirement for facilities management staff to organise school estates to support physical distancing, or to deliver enhanced cleaning practices. A proportion of staff may also be shielding or absent due to COVID-19 symptoms, which may affect their ability to attend physical settings. Staff may require access to childcare to allow them to attend school under the blended model of education.

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.

Education authorities, working in close partnership with unions and staff, are best placed to make judgements about how to make best use of available workforce capacity safely and effectively. Many of these decisions will be based on agreements reached within Local Negotiation Committees for Teachers (LNCTs). This section sets out some high level expectations to ensure consistency, and some information on national initiatives to support education authorities in these efforts.

Determining workforce capacity

Education authorities/schools should undertake a review of the availability of teaching and support staff, including janitorial, cleaning and office staff, when a decision is taken to return to settings, to ensure there is sufficient capacity in the workforce to prepare settings and deliver education under a blended model of education.

In making that assessment/judgement with regard to the teaching workforce, education authorities should take into account the additional flexibilities that have already been put in place to support the delivery of education in this new context:

  • The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) has agreed a range of flexibilities for temporary changes to teachers’ terms and conditions to adapt to the pandemic. The SNCT will continue to meet regularly throughout the crisis to consider what further flexibilities may be required.
  • The SNCT has agreed job retention payments to keep temporary supply teachers in the system pending a return to a “new normal” in August.
  • The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) has offered the flexibility of a reduced timeframe for anyone currently employed as a probationer. Probationers following the Teacher Induction Scheme will be required to have completed a minimum of 120 satisfactory days at school. Those following the Flexible Route will be required to have completed a minimum of 200 satisfactory days at school. Days missed from the usual requirement of 190 and 270 days respectively, will provide probationers with an opportunity to engage in professional learning activities. A reduced timeframe is also being offered to those teachers seeking professional registration in an additional area.
  • Schools are likely to face challenges in effectively supporting students on initial teacher education (ITE) programmes from the beginning of the new school year. Work is currently underway with all key partners to agree the school placement planning assumptions that ITE providers will use to inform the timetabling of their 2020/21 programme delivery, while addressing the potential implications for HEIs and GTC Scotland processes.

In making that assessment/judgement with regard to the wider workforce in the school environment, local authorities should take into account equivalent agreements reached via the Scottish Joint Council (SJC). The SJC has provided guidance in relation to the working arrangements for Casual Workers (SJC-62) and the treatment of annual leave during the COVID 19 period (SJC-60). The SJC continues to meet regularly to consider what additional flexibilities may be required.

Making full use of available workforce capacity

Before considering alternative approaches, education authorities should ensure that existing workforce capacity is fully utilised in responding to the local challenges likely to be faced.

Education authorities should take the following actions as part of any wider workforce planning activities for the opening of school premises:

  • ensure that post-probation teachers who have not yet secured permanent employment are considered as an integral part of their planning
  • consider the potential for probationer teachers with potentially strong digital skill sets, to support remote learning. This may be an important aspect of maintaining educational continuity
  • ensure that supply lists are as up to date as possible and include the full pool of available staff. Supply staff are an important aspect of maintaining educational continuity and should be fully utilised in local planning around workforce capacity
  • consider at a local level how all staff who are having to stay at home due to shielding or self-isolation can support educational continuity, for example by supporting remote learning
  • consider the availability of health and social care partners as part of planning for support for children and young people
  • consider any other opportunities to ensure existing teaching and wider workforce capacity can be deployed to support school reopenings

Throughout this process potential workload issues should be carefully considered, and education authorities should be conscious of the wellbeing of all and the need to implement flexible working practices in a way that promotes good work-life balance for all staff.

Identifying additional workforce capacity

If the existing capacity in the teaching workforce is insufficient to meet the challenges of a blended learning model, partners have agreed that the following actions will be expedited to quickly mobilise additional teachers, for what may be a temporary period. The detail of these processes is under development and will be communicated to education authorities in due course:

  • GTCS will contact teachers who are on the register of teachers where the information held suggests that they are not currently teaching to facilitate their contact with employers to establish their willingness and availability to return to teaching should this be required based on local need. A mechanism will be established with education authorities to manage this process at a local level.
  • GTCS will contact individuals whose GTCS registration has recently lapsed, including recently retired teachers, to facilitate their contact with employers to establish their willingness and availability to return to teaching, should this be required based on local need.
  • consideration will be given to the costs of registrations and PVG clearances required to bring any of these teachers into employment
  • any such approaches to individuals would be accompanied by an offer of appropriate professional learning if necessary (for example, extension of existing return to teaching courses) and a guarantee that the quality of teaching would not be compromised. It may be that a focus on deploying this group of additional teachers to support remote learning would be appropriate.

​​​​​​​The Scottish Catholic Education Service has highlighted existing flexibilities for school session 2020/21 to ensure that sufficient probationers can be allocated to denominational schools if this is necessary to support local challenges.

​​​​​​​Education authorities should ensure that existing capacity in the wider workforce in the school environment is sufficient to meet the challenges of a phased return to school and keep this under constant review.