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Supply teachers must be part of the solution to the safe and sustainable return of more pupils to schools in Scotland.

The NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union is calling for schools and employers to utilise the army of supply teachers to support the phased return to school of more pupils from next week in order to better support smaller class sizes and physical distancing requirements, as well as assist in helping pupils to recover their education from the impact of the pandemic. 

This would not only benefit the safety and education of pupils, it would also provide employment opportunities for the large number of skilled and experienced supply teachers, many of whom have been left facing financial hardship as a result of the Covid outbreak.

In tandem, the NASUWT is also calling on the Scottish Government and COSLA to reinstate a system of financial support for supply teachers who are unable to access work as NASUWT research has found that half of supply teachers have had assignments withdrawn during the current lockdown and a further 14% have had their hours reduced.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said:

“The Scottish Government and employers have a responsibility to do all they can to make schools Covid safe. One of the main ways to prevent transmission of the virus is to maintain strict two metre physical distancing. We have called for the introduction of rotas to assist in preventing overcrowding, but creating smaller class sizes through the recruitment of supply teachers would also help to assist in reducing contact between pupils.

“Utilising supply teachers in this way to work with smaller groups would also help in providing more time and attention to each pupil as they work to recover their learning from the impact of the pandemic and could provide a win-win for both schools and supply teachers.

“Significant numbers of supply staff are unable to work, have had work cancelled, or have drastically reduced employment opportunities. This is leaving hard working and dedicated supply staff facing increased financial uncertainty and hardship.

“We do not believe there is a robust argument for the failure to continue the SNCT Supply Teachers Job Retention Scheme while the pandemic remains with us and continues to impact on supply teachers’ ability to access work. 

“It cannot be right that hard working and dedicated supply staff, who have been fundamental to ensuring that schools control to function during the ongoing pandemic, are being prohibited and excluded from financial assistance at such a critical time.”

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