Publication - FOI/EIR release

Support for teachers and the education system during the COVID-19 pandemic: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
23 Oct 2020
Support for teachers and the education system during the COVID-19 pandemic: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000091538
Date received: 24 Sep 2020
Date responded: 22 Oct 2020
Information requested

1. Can you please confirm what, if any, steps have been taken to protect teachers from the COVID pandemic?

2. Further, as the pandemic is due to continue for some time to come what steps are planned to help improve the safety of our teachers?

3. What assurance is provided that any measures are being followed within schools and how is the Scottish government tracking the enforcement of these measures?

4. Lastly, what additional funding and support has been given to schools to help them through this crisis?

Response

You have asked four separate questions. The answers to each are below.

Some of the information you have requested is available from the links provided below. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

1. Can you please confirm what, if any, steps have been taken to protect teachers from the COVID pandemic?

Our education system is reliant on the hard work and dedication of all school staff, and we recognise the effort and resilience they have shown during this challenging time. As you may be aware, guidance on preparing for the start of the new school term in August 2020, developed with the Education Recovery Group (CERG), was published to support local authorities, school staff and parents and to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission through the application of a number of infection mitigation measures. The guidance includes information on practical implementation measures such as physical distancing, PPE, face coverings and safe school transport, wider support and wellbeing issues, and offers reassurance on how schools can support children’s learning and development.

These measures, as advised by the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, are in place to protect all members of the school community, including school staff.

In addition, COVID-19 Occupational Risk Assessment Guidance and individual risk assessment for the workplace guidance have been produced by the Scottish Government to support employers in protecting their staff. These documents are relevant to all workplaces, including schools.

2. Further, as the pandemic is due to continue for some time to come what steps are planned to help improve the safety of our teachers?

As our scientific knowledge of this virus develops, so too will the guidance issued by the Scottish Government. It is not possible to say at this stage how the scientific advice will develop over the coming months, however the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) continues to meet regularly and to draw upon advice from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues where appropriate.

The Deputy First Minister and the CERG have committed to ensuring the Scottish Government’s guidance to schools and local authorities on the reopening of schools remains under review, and is updated as appropriate.

All future versions of the aforementioned guidance will be published on the government website.

3. What assurance is provided that any measures are being followed within schools and how is the Scottish government tracking the enforcement of these measures?

With regards to compliance of the guidance, the Health and Safety Executive has carried out 500 initial telephone sample checks and schools have achieved over 80% compliance rate. HSE is undertaking follow up visits to schools where there were initial concerns, which the Scottish Government fully supports. They may find concerns have already been addressed. We of course take any such reports seriously, and are working with partners to monitor implementation of the agreed guidance carefully. Where there are concerns around implementation of any of the mitigation measures in schools, we will work with partners to address these. However, it is worth noting that it is
local authorities that manage public schools, employ teachers and other staff who work there, and consequently have a range of legal duties in relation the operation of schools and employment matters, including health and safety.

4. Lastly, what additional funding and support has been given to schools to help them through this crisis?

A return to full-time schooling in August enhanced the life chances of children and young people and we have encouraged local authorities and schools to target support where it is most needed. For example, schools were given flexibility to redirect Attainment Scotland Funding to help mitigate the impacts of school closures on our most disadvantaged families, and to make adjustments to existing plans to be delivered as schools returned. We recognise that disruption caused by the pandemic has impacted children from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly severely. In 2020/21 we are investing a further £182 million, which includes over £120m of Pupil Equity Funding going direct to 97% of head teachers in Scotland. This includes £50 million for schools and local authorities with the highest concentration of deprivation to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.

We also confirmed that, for the first time, more than £250 million in Pupil Equity Funding will be made available to 97% of schools over two years, 2020/21 and 2021/22. The Scottish Government is also providing up to a further £135 million over the next two years to help to tackle the impact of coronavirus and supports the safe operation of schools since they reopened in August. This new funding includes investment in teaching resources and other work to support children and young people’s health and wellbeing and attainment. It also complements the £12.6 million made available to ensure free school meals continued over the summer for those in need.

This includes the following key investments:

  • A total of £75m for local authorities to recruit additional teachers, and £5m to recruit additional teaching assistants or other education support staff.

  • £3m in support of youth work and £2m in the family support element of “The Promise”

  • Up to £50m to support local authorities with the additional logistical costs associated with reopening schools, such as transport for pupils, increased cleaning costs and adjustments to school buildings and other learning spaces.

Young people’s health and wellbeing and attainment is paramount and we have invested £30m to promote digital inclusion amongst children and young people. This includes £25m for school-aged children. Funding allocations for digital devices and connectivity solutions have now been made to all 32 local authorities for them to buy connection packages and laptops/devices of their choosing. Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring our pupils, teachers and other school staff get the support they need to remain safe and feel comfortable in the school environment. In September we announced a package of workforce support designed to aid school staff as the manage Covid-19. This includes:

  • Barnardo’s Scotland and mental health charity Place2Be will offer new mental health support for staff focused on reflective supervision.

  • Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland will create new professional learning opportunities for post probation teachers.

  • A new coaching and mentoring offer for teachers will also be developed by Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council.

  • We will also continue our commitment with the Hunter Foundation, to the values based leadership programmes delivered by Columba 1400.

  • The total value of this package is £1.5 million and will help as many as 7,000 school staff at different points in their careers.

About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
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