The Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) has just published the results of a survey of members who are headteachers or depute headteachers in Scotland’s schools.
‘Seven weeks into this school shutdown the EIS surveyed its members to find out about the challenges of delivering education remotely as well as in school hubs. Within this survey, questions were designed, also, to understand teacher wellbeing, and what is required as we move into the next academic session in August 2020 on the basis of a “blended learning” approach.’
The School Sector Survey was opened on 12 May and closed on 19 May. In total 26,128 responses were obtained, a response rate of c.60%. The survey was in five sections: About You, Hub Support, Remote Learning, Health and Wellbeing and The Next Academic Session.
Acknowledgement: the graphics below are taken from the EIS School Sector Survey report.
Unsurprisingly, given the unfamiliar situation Scotland’s schools have had to face in lockdown – and given workload and stress issues due to inevitable lack of preparedness – there are some adversely critical responses from survey participants on certain issues. (Candidly, however when one opts in questionnaire design to ask for responses to negatively framed questions, you will inevitably elicit – indeed can only receive, by design – responses which count towards negative messaging!)
Notwithstanding criticisms, there are also some remarkable ‘positives’ about how Scotland’s educational system, its individual schools and their staff, have not just coped but risen to the challenges with commitment and innovation. And there is also evidence here that many parents have been reasonably realistic over what could be delivered remotely so far. All this, arguably, in an environment supported by Local Authorities and influenced by the co-operative, consultative approach towards the sector adopted from the outset by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP.
In an unashamedly selective account, here are some notable responses. The degree of positivity – not unanimous across all issues – seems in stark contrast to the tone of media reports about the present state of affairs within the English schools system as a consequence of the Tory government’s approach to date.
EIS and Government
On 21 May, the General Secretary of the EIS, Larry Flanagan said this about the nature of the working relationship between the teaching union, the Scottish Government and Local Authorities:
“Our members will welcome the clarity provided by the First Minister’s announcement today, and the clear statement that schools will not re-open until after the summer and only if health conditions allow.”
“This will provide valuable time to allow schools to prepare for what will be a very different learning environment, with physical distancing requiring smaller class sizes and schools delivering a blended approach of part time in-school learning and part time remote learning for most pupils.”
Mr Flanagan added, “The EIS has worked constructively with the Scottish Government and with local authorities throughout this crisis and will continue to do so in the best interests of learners and teachers.”
“There is a strong shared commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of everyone in the school community. Delivering a new blended learning approach is potentially the biggest curriculum challenge of this century, however, and it will require significant commitment from all parties to make it work.” No less should be expected!
Perhaps the EIS could be more gracious in valuing what it and its members have in Scotland? This is from a press release issued on 9 June by the National Education Union in England:
“The consequences of Covid-19 are going to be felt in our education system for months to come. What is needed, now, is a national plan for education, along the lines being developed by the Scottish government. This should cover all possible scenarios and focus on blended learning, at home and at school; greatly increased support for disadvantaged children, including free internet access so that they can access online teaching and learning, and the requisitioning of local public spaces, such as community centres and libraries, so that pressure on school space is lessened and more children are able to return to school in safe environments.”