The Scottish Government announced, in late June 2020, the early and full re-opening of schools in August 2020. Like many government decisions, (both Holyrood and Westminster) during the Covid-19 emergency, the required inference is that the decision is based on the available science and in consultation with relevant professionals and workforce. However, Unite CEC branch believes the inference, in the context of schools’ re-opening, to be wrongly implied on two counts.
Firstly, on the question of the science, it does not seem clear precisely which science is being followed and providing the robust evidence in a febrile atmosphere of inconsistent and conflicting scientific advice. The decision to re-open schools early was a political one and, as such, Unite CEC branch believes that, in the making of this decision, aspects of economic science took prominence over medical and educational science.
Secondly, the mechanism for consultation with relevant bodies in education is through the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG). However, Unite CEC branch is disappointed and concerned that the CERG is sadly lacking in workforce representation as it does not have any trade union representation from the Scottish Joint Council (SJC), the collective bargaining body on workforce terms and conditions for the local government workforce. Unite has been expressing concerns over this deficiency, in the strongest possible terms, through COSLA since CERG operations became known. More recently, Unite raised these concerns directly to the Deputy First Minister. Unite believes that, with the exception of teachers, the workforce had largely been overlooked in the recovery plans.
Through dogmatic persistence Unite has secured a place on the Education Recovery Forum and been able to represent members properly, to protect your health, and that of your family, friends and colleagues, but that is not the end. Unite will persist in battling to ensure that a whole school approach is taken to the re-opening. An approach where No One is Left Behind in the decision making and processes of re-opening. No Cleaner, no Caterer, no Classroom Assistant, no PSA, no FT, no Technician, no Business Manager should be left in the dark at this crucial juncture. Lack of involvement in decision making and poor communications of processes and decisions are serious health and safety risks that Unite will challenge and counter emphatically and unreservedly.