Scotland’s education system “can’t cope” without an increase in funding for more staff over the coming year, the head of Scotland’s largest teaching union has said.
Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS, told Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee there will need to be more teachers in the workforce to deliver the “blended model” of teaching in Scotland next year.
The Scottish Government announced in its “route map” out of the coronavirus lockdown – which closed schools on March 20 – pupils will return on August 11 but will spend around half their time in school and the other half at home.
Some £30 million has been pledged to deliver laptops and internet access to disadvantaged children across the country, a payment Mr Flanagan welcomed but said is indicative of the scale of financing needed to support the system.
Responding to a question from Tory MSP Jamie Greene, Mr Flanagan said: “Due to the staff that will be needed beyond teachers, to support young people’s wellbeing and resilience in what’s a very traumatic period for them, I do think there’s a huge cost to be borne in order to make this work.”
Mr Flanagan said local authority body Cosla is in discussions with the Scottish Government over funding for education but he claimed there is no need for a “wrangle” between the two over finances.
He said: “We would like to see a very strong commitment to make sure that the funding is there to deliver whatever is necessary on behalf of our children and students.”
Mr Flanagan said the pandemic has shown “how deep the fault line” of inequality is, adding a number of children will return in August with severe trauma.
He said more staff will be needed in schools to help children deal with this.
“We need more counsellors, we need more specialist staff – and all of that requires additional resource,” Mr Flanagan said.
“Working with young people who are damaged by their life experiences is a labour intensive process and we need to have the staff there to do that.”
Jim Thewliss, the general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, told the committee that groups of children with trauma in Scotland will be “expanded”.
He added there will be different indicators of disadvantage and abuse that teachers will need to be “acutely aware of” to provide support to pupils.
Mr Greene also asked Mr Flanagan about any indications he had received from the Scottish Government about the testing of teachers for coronavirus.
Mr Flanagan said that was part of an “ongoing discussion”, adding he “would welcome some clarity” on the issue.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government and Cosla have jointly written to all local authorities setting out an agreed position on the next financial steps required.”