Schools and local authorities have been urged to allow most teachers to work from home throughout January.
Amid confusion over the return to work for school staff, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association said that only those required for the minority of children who will be attending school should report for duty this week.
On Monday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told people to stay at home and work from home if they could as she announced a second Scottish lockdown.
But it is understood that some schools have asked all staff to attend this week even though only a few pupils will be there.
Some staff have been asked to come in to plan for remote teaching of the majority of pupils, which begins on Monday for at least three weeks.
But Seamus Searson, SSTA general secretary, said that requirement breached the Scottish Government’s stay at home order and that both teaching and meetings should be conducted remotely to keep teachers safe.
.@SSTAtradeunion only teachers with child supervision duties should be in school this week. All other teachers should be trusted to work from home. #SafetyFirst #COVID19 #FollowTheAdvice https://t.co/c24pRHDNOb
— Seamus Searson (@searson_seamus) January 4, 2021
He said: “If schools are asking teachers to come in unnecessarily, then they are going against the orders of the ministers.”
There is no need, he said, to have teachers in school buildings, either planning for remote learning or teaching remotely.
Teachers have been planning for this for months, they don’t need to go into a school building to do that.”
Seamus Searson, SSTA general secretary
“Teachers have been planning for this for months, they don’t need to go into a school building to do that,” he said.
Only a few staff are needed to keep schools open for the children who will be there, he said, adding: “Schools should know how many children they will need to look after. They should know who the vulnerable children are and they will have asked parents last term if they are key workers.”
Scottish Government guidance for the new term was issued on December 21 when the holidays were extended for most pupils, followed by just a week of remote learning.
Schools in Angus are due to reopen on Wednesday and those in Fife, Dundee and Perth and Kinross on Thursday for children of key workers and vulnerable children only.
The guidance states that only staff required in person to “give effect to these revised school reopening arrangements” should attend.
“Teachers will return to work as planned and children of key workers and the most vulnerable children will return to schools as planned.”
Scottish Government spokesman
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have decided to keep schools closed to the majority of pupils until February 1.
“Guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): childcare provision from 26 December to 18 January – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) was issued on December 21 regarding the detailed arrangements for schools after the festive break.
“Teachers will return to work as planned and children of key workers and the most vulnerable children will return to schools as planned.
“The definition of vulnerable children includes those with additional support needs, and it is for education authorities to determine the arrangements for this provision locally, in line with guidance, and to update all school staff accordingly.”
In Angus, head teachers were asked to decide how many staff their schools would require.
Kelly McIntosh, director of education and lifelong learning at Angus Council, said on Tuesday evening: “We issued new guidance to head teachers late this afternoon to the effect that if they know how many children are scheduled to attend tomorrow then they may decide which staff they need in school.
“Of course our head teachers are still on holiday so not all will access this information.
“Some schools have a high number of children due to attend and so will naturally require more staff to be in school.”
Fife Council said school staff will be expected to provide effective remote learning and have key workers’ children and those requiring enhanced support in school.
It also said schools would work with staff to create rotas to “make sure that the best possible learning is provided for all our children and young people”.
Perth and Kinross
A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “The council is in ongoing discussions with schools and trade unions regarding staff attendance arrangements, bearing in mind national guidance following the Scottish Government’s announcement on Monday, January 4.”
Dundee City Council was also asked about the return of school staff but have yet to respond.