Teachers are on their knees and crying out for a shift to blended learning, according to a former union leader in Fife.
Councillor Colin Davidson says some schools are struggling with soaring absence levels and are “beyond a crisis”.
Senior teachers have written to Fife Council asking for schools to operate part-time timetables in the new year, he claims – and the council says plans are in place in case home learning is needed.
Fearful of doing so themselves several teachers have asked Mr Davidson to speak out about the pressure they are under on their behalf, he said.
A national school closure is deemed an “absolute last resort” by Scottish Government, which refused to close all Scottish schools early for the Christmas holidays.
But teaching unions have called for a delay to the start of term in January and consideration of a shift to remote learning as staff levels are hit by self-isolating and Covid-19 infections.
Teachers are not just on their knees, they are beyond that.”
Councillor Colin Davidson
Mr Davidson, a qualified teacher and past president of the EIS Fife branch, said one local school had around a quarter of its staff absent at the end of last week.
The latest absence figures published by the government showed 48 Fife teachers off on Tuesday last week due to Covid-19, including those isolating or ill with the virus, however, pupil absences had soared to 1,815 from 1,239 a week earlier.
Mr Davidson, Labour councillor for Leven, Kennoway and Largo, said: “A head teacher phoned me on Friday morning in tears, saying we need to get the message out that teachers are not just on their knees, they are beyond that.
“A short period of blended learning at the start of the year would take the pressure off them.
“We are now asking employers to encourage people to work from home. If a lot of parents are at home – indeed 90% of Fife Council workers who are not on the frontline are at home – then this is the time to do it.”
Teachers’ union ‘very concerned’
Blended learning was used earlier this year when secondary school year groups were assigned days to attend school and days to learn at home before their full-time return in April.
EIS Fife said it is “very concerned” about higher than usual staff absences for the time of year.
Spokesman David Farmer said: “Certainly, some individual schools have particular issues with staff absence.
“Our hope would be that the education service will do all it can to alleviate those staffing issues.
“Back in September and October when a number of primary and secondary schools were quite badly impacted by the pandemic the service pulled out the stops to get supply staff into schools and in some cases staff from the service took over management roles.”
What does Fife Council say?
Head of education and children’s services Shelagh McLean said that Fife’s schools and nurseries continue to follow Scottish Government and public health guidance.
She added: “Any changes to restrictions will be put in place in our schools after the Christmas holidays and we’ll be encouraging everyone in our schools to stay safe by following appropriate physical distancing, one way systems, regular testing and reporting, and the appropriate use of face coverings.
“Test kits are being issued to pupils and staff before the holidays so that they can test in the week before coming back to school and this will continue when schools return. We’re encouraging everyone to test regularly and report results.
“Contingency plans are in place to implement blended/remote learning if that becomes necessary.”