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Teaching union lodges grievances against two councils over schools reopening

UK News | Published:

The Educational Institute of Scotland said teachers are under intense pressure over the return of pupils to classrooms.

Pupils arrive at Kelso High Schoo

Scotland’s largest teaching union has lodged grievances with two councils over what it claims are failures to facilitate phased returns of pupils.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said the Scottish Borders and Moray local authorities have also failed to properly consult and reach agreement with it and other trade unions, in line with Scottish Government guidelines.

Pupils in the Scottish Borders returned to school on Tuesday, while they will be back in classrooms in Moray on Wednesday.

The EIS said a lack of discussion around the flexibility of phased returns means staff are under “intense pressure” over schools reopening.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the union, said about 80% of its members have expressed “deep concerns” about safety over the reopening of schools.

He said: “The recent EIS national survey indicated majority support from members for industrial action if required, to ensure the safety of staff and pupils in our schools.

“We will always seek to resolve collective grievances through dialogue but councils such as Scottish Borders need to engage with the EIS and not seek to bypass proper discussions by claiming a ‘corporate decision’ has been made.”

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The EIS said the Scottish Borders Council grievance asks for a phased return of pupils and said that the council has responded by acknowledging the union’s concerns but not acknowledging the grievance.

The union said it will be pursuing the matter.

Coronavirus – Tue Aug 11, 2020
Pupils arrive at Kelso High School (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “Throughout our planning for the reopening of schools we have been engaging regularly with colleagues from the relevant trades unions and therefore we are extremely disappointed at the course of action now being taken.

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“This creates unnecessary concern for parents and pupils at what is already a challenging time and we hope to resolve it swiftly.”

The EIS said its grievance against Moray Council is that the local authority is carrying out a full return of school pupils on Wednesday as opposed to a phased return.

The union instead wants a phased return of pupils over several days.

A Moray Council spokesman said: “We discussed return to school guidance with trade unions throughout the school summer holidays and published this guidance following seven virtual consultations with head teachers prior to the start of term.

“There are arrangements in place across our schools to help pupils and staff phase back to normal in the first few days, including staggered starts and soft introductions to the curriculum, particularly for those in transition years of P1 and S1.”

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