Two thirds of teachers in Scotland would support industrial action if schools don’t switch to blended or remote learning in level four, a survey has revealed.
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), found that 66% of respondents indicated a willingness to support industrial action – including strike action – in protest at failure to move to blended or remote learning in areas under the tightest restrictions.
It was also revealed that just 31% of teachers either feel ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ in schools under the current safety measures in place.
Of those who took part in the survey, 33% indicated that they were in a vulnerable category or cared for someone who was vulnerable.
Vulnerable groups include those who were shielding, people identifying as BAME and pregnant women.
In areas under level four restrictions, 51% of survey respondents believe that remote learning should be introduced on safety grounds.
A further 45% of teachers supported either a blended learning approach or maintaining current arrangements but with additional safety mitigations in place when in level four.
For those areas in level three, the survey showed that there is clear support for schools remaining open – with 86% of respondents backing this option.
There was still significant support for a blended learning model in these areas however, with just under half of teachers (48%) believing this should be in place to enable physical distancing.
Keeping schools open a “priority”
Despite the increasing calls to move to a blended learning model, the survey did also show that 64% of respondents either ‘supported’ or ‘fully supported’ the Scottish Government decision to prioritise keeping schools open where possible.
Speaking last week, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m aware there are some people who argue that schools should be closed at level four however our very clear view is that the harm done to young people by closing schools significantly outweighs any impact that schools have on transmission.
“Keeping schools open is therefore a priority.”
The EIS has repeatedly said that schools remaining operational cannot come at the expense of teacher and pupil wellbeing.”
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary
Commenting on the results of the survey, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan argued that although keeping schools open was supported by the majority of teachers, it should not come at the expense of their safety.
He said: “Although members hold a range of opinions on the best means of keeping pupils and teachers safe, there is clear support for moving to industrial action in higher risk areas to protest where teachers feel that the measures required to keep schools safe have not been delivered.
“The EIS has repeatedly said that schools remaining operational cannot come at the expense of teacher and pupil wellbeing.
“Just as importantly blended and remote learning models are increasingly being adopted to stem increases in COVID community infection levels.
“For Level 4 restrictions to be as effective as we would wish them to be, short term closure or part closure of schools need to be considered.”