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Covid in Scotland: 'My pupils can shield but I've been told to work'

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
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image captionA teacher says she has been told she has to return to the frontline and cannot work from home during pandemic restrictions

A teacher who was previously shielding has been told to stay on the front line during the latest restrictions, despite pupils in the same position being allowed to work at home.

BBC Scotland has seen a letter from her employers insisting her job cannot be done from home and that she must return to the classroom.

The teacher has suggested ways she can support self-isolating pupils.

But her employer said all teaching staff were required to work in schools.

After the Scottish government made the decision to return to full time learning in August the authority said working from home in frontline teaching roles could not be accommodated.

Several other local authorities have allowed this for specific cases.

The teacher has cystic fibrosis and her GP and specialist have recommended she works from home.

Sick leave

She said: "Since we went into enhanced restrictions around September I have requested to work from home and that has consistently been refused by my authority.

"I have had a risk assessment which triggered an occupational health assessment which recommended working from home. I have had letters from specialists about my condition which said work from home and a GP note, but this has been refused and I am currently off sick because the authority just won't entertain it at all."

During the early part of the pandemic, she was officially shielding and the local authority supported that.

But now she has to take sick leave, meaning she will soon go to half pay, despite teachers being asked to self-isolate at home being on full pay.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPupils with health conditions are being told to stay at home

She also says there is plenty of work a teacher can do from home to support those in the classroom.

"In level 4, children who were on the shielding list have been told not to attend school, so straight away you have a whole group of children who need education, need that human contact with people while they are isolating again from their friends," she said.

"A contact with a teacher would be fantastic for them because class teachers will still be expected to be full time in their classes. When have they got time to dedicate to the children who are shielding? There's development work, there are lots of things that can be done at home."

image captionSixth year pupil Hannah is back to working from home for the next three weeks

Someone who could benefit from teacher help at home is 17-year-old Hannah.

She has a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She was shielding during the earlier lockdown, and has now been told to shield at home during the level four restriction period from Friday at 18:00.

Missing out

As a sixth year pupil, she is concerned about her Highers next year.

"Because I'm not actually in the classes it is quite difficult to understand the work that I have been given. So it will affect me and my exams - I will be further behind and I might struggle," she said.

Her experience of learning at home is patchy. She said: "Some classes give me work, sometimes I don't know what to do because there's been no work given. I am worried because I am missing out on a big chunk of the course not being taught to me."

image captionJohn Swinney said teachers' individual situations should be considered by employers

Education Secretary John Swinney told the BBC: "It is very important that in all circumstances where teachers have been shielding and they are concerned about their own wellbeing, that there are appropriate discussions with their own local authority employers.

"In the government guidance, it is crystal clear that various mitigations have to be put in place to protect teachers and pupils who may have health issues. It is vital that in all circumstances, the individual experiences of every individual is taken into account."

Scotland's biggest teaching union, the EIS, has continually called for blended learning to be used. Earlier this week, it revealed it was surveying members on the prospect of industrial action as Covid-related absences hit a new high.

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