Us For Them parents group clashes with biggest teaching union over ‘recording classes’ allegation

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A SCOTTISH parents group has demanded that Scotland’s biggest teaching union withdraw “false” claim that it asked members to record teachers and students in online lessons.

The UsForThem campaign group were accused of “causing alarm and distress” for some Scots teachers “in what is already a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty”.

In a letter sent to the group’s leadership, Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) general secretary Larry Flanagan asks that they “cease and desist from calling upon your supporters to provide you with footage of home learning”.

The EIS warned the lobby group – which has gained prominence by campaigning to keep schools open – that if it records and shares footage of teachers delivering remote lessons, it will be leaving itself open to “the possibility of legal action”.

The union added that individuals recording and sharing footage of lessons could also be breaking the law, and that councils or other parents and pupils may decide to take action “with regard to any pupils also being recorded”.

UsForThem says EIS were referencing message on the group’s Facebook page which was misinterpreted. The group says the message was made in relation to pupils making video diaries of their home-schooling experience.

The lobby group has now requested the EIS withdraw the allegation, “allowing both sides to move on and focus on their respective campaigns”.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:“We have absolutely no interest in having a feud with the EIS – but we can’t leave this accusation hanging.

“The exchange they have based the accusation on was about encouraging children to make video diaries of their home-school experience to share with others.

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“As such, we have invited the EIS to withdraw the allegation so we can all move on.

“We have different objectives to each other, so of course there are going to be strong words and passionate disagreement, especially through tough times.

“But we’ve reiterated that we hold teachers in the highest regard, and want them to be back where they do their best work – educating the next generation of Scotland’s children in the classroom.”

The lobby group says the offending post states: “Could we also get our kids to make video diaries about their home learning experiences?”

Ms Bisset has told Mr Flanagan that the post he have cited then responds directly to that post saying, “we’d love that” before adding: “But if you could record video footage that we could add when pulling together the results that would be amazing.”

The original poster then replies: “Will do. My daughter and I can each do a daily diary and edit it all.”

She told Mr Flanagan: “Clearly, the statement you are referring to was in relation to children making video diaries of their home-schooling experience, not covertly recording teachers in the course of their working day.

UsForThem produced this Facebook dialogue

“I hope this clears matters up, and eases any fears among you and your members that we encouraged anyone to record teachers in action – something we never have and never will have any intention of doing.

“We would also appreciate if you could formally withdraw the allegations made in your original letter.”

The EIS email sent on Wednesday states that “recording and monitoring of individuals has a number of privacy and data protection implications”.

It continues: “It is our position that: (i) publication of footage of members’ teaching represents a breach of their right to privacy and data protection rights, and is actionable in law against UsForThem or the individual who recorded and shared the footage; and (ii) UsForThem may therefore be encouraging individuals to break the law and expose themselves to the possibility of legal action by recording and sharing footage (without permission to do so).

“Please cease and desist from calling upon your supporters to provide you with footage of home learning.

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“There may be further legal implications with regard to any pupils also being recorded, although that would be for local authorities or individual parents/pupils to pursue.

“Please be aware that these actions of UsForThem are causing alarm and distress to some of our members in what is already a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty.”

The EIS has said it has “acknowledged the recent clear statement posted on [Us For Them Scotland’s] Facebook page not to record online lessons”.

The parents lobby group in September controversially called for face coverings not to be mandatory in schools.

And STV’s Scotland Tonight faced criticism after ‘platforming’ Ms Bisset. She appeared on the programme as part of the “Listen Up” debate segment arguing face coverings are “ineffective” and “invasive”.

For those who replied to me yesterday supporting fanatics who attack parents for caring about their kids’ education – I hope there will be apologies to this group following this disclosure. Time to stop defending the indefensible and support teachers and families who want better. https://t.co/Z2384icpcb
— Jack McConnell (@LordMcConnell) January 15, 2021

At the time in Scottish schools the official advice was that pupils aged over 12 are only required to wear a face covering if they are in a communal area where social distancing is not possible, like corridors or public transport taking children to the school. Masks are not mandatory in classrooms.

Ms Bisset was shown in a short campaign clip arguing pupils’ “entire interactive learning experience suffers as a result” of being asked to wear face coverings in schools.

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