Saturday, 13 June 2020

Scotland's Schools - A Top Priority?

Scotland's schools will not get back to teaching until 11 August 2020 and when they do school pupils will only be taught for one week in three, after missing out on their regular lessons since March.

The level of support for parents during lockdown has varied enormously with some councils providing little if any practical support to parents and children via virtual, online teaching. 

So I do struggle to see how such an unambitious policy lives up to the Scottish Government's declaration that 'Education, Education, Education' is at the heart of its agenda.


Scotland coronavirus: Pupils will go back for one week in three

Nursery and primary schools will ensure that siblings attend on the same day, but secondaries are likely to group pupils by year group - JAMES GLOSSOP FOR THE TIMES

By David McCann - The Times

Pupils returning to classrooms in Edinburgh and Aberdeen will attend school for one week in three under plans to resume conventional teaching.

In the capital lessons will take place from Mondays to Thursdays, with children attending for the whole day. Fridays will be used by staff to support home learning.

Nursery and primary schools will ensure that siblings attend on the same day, but secondaries are likely to group pupils by year group.

In Aberdeen schools will start the term on August 11 and pupils in Edinburgh will go back on August 10, one week earlier than originally planned.

John Swinney, the Scottish education secretary, urged schools to exercise “sensitivity” if pupils returned without their full uniform, because going out to buy one in lockdown “may be not that essential”.

Mr Swinney was appearing before the education committee and said that the head of his son’s primary school had told parents: “Don’t be in such a hurry to go and buy the school uniform.”

Education, Education, Education! (28/04/20)

The Times reports that minds are beginning to focus on how to get life back to some kind of normality in Scotland's schools.

Now if I were John Swinney, Scotland's education minister, I would be looking to cancel the normal summer break (25 June to 12 August) and use this time to test out new ways of working - not least because the traditional summer holiday season is a 'bust' anyway. 

Some schools have remained open during lockdown, of course, supporting vulnerable children and the children of essential workers, so there must surely be important lessons to be learned and shared from this experience.

The 'new normal' seems likely to involve different ways of working involving social distancing and perhaps more remote learning, so keeping schools open over the summer makes sense for all kinds of practical reasons. 

School teachers and school students could still take a 2 or 3 week break if they wish, since schools will not to be operating at full capacity while trying out new ideas and different methods of working. 

The other thing I'd do, if I were Mr Swinney, would be to get Education Scotland and certain local councils to explain why they cannot make use of live web conferencing platforms.

Because it seems ridiculous to me that some Scottish   councils have said local schools can't use this kind of technology which sounds odd. 

So how about naming some names, Mr Swinney?

Coronavirus in Scotland: Holidays may change to let pupils return to classroom

School summer holiday dates could be moved to compensate for lost teaching time - Photo MATT CARDY/GETTY IMAGES

By Helen Puttick - The Times

Children across Scotland face having their summer holidays changed to compensate for classroom teaching they have missed.

John Swinney, the Scottish education secretary and deputy first minister, is considering a plan to bring pupils back to schools earlier in August.

The move may be necessary if a resurgence of Covid-19 is expected in the colder months, potentially leading to a return of some lockdown measures, according to Mr Swinney.

He revealed the measure was under consideration as grave questions were raised about the quality of home education provided by Scotland’s state schools. While pupils at private schools in Scotland are being taught directly by their teachers using live web conferencing platforms, some local authorities have told state schools they cannot follow suit.

Councils claim they cannot offer live teaching via video under guidelines issued by Education Scotland (ES), the government agency. ES insists it is for local authorities to decide.

Surveys show parents are struggling to cope with the demands of working at home while supervising home learning and trying to sustain the family’s mental health. Three quarters of parents who responded to one poll revealed they were struggling.

Mr Swinney said the idea of closing schools for a prolonged period was “horrifying” but had to be done, and said moving school summer holiday dates had not been ruled out: “We need to look at every option that enables us to navigate our way through this.”

Emphasising the advice of public health experts would be crucial in the decision-making, he added: “We do not yet know what the autumn and winter will be like with Covid. There may well be an argument for saying that there might be a need to get schools in earlier than when they would generally normally resume in August because of that and because young people have missed out on formal schooling.”

He added: “These are subjects that we are exploring with our partners to establish what is the most appropriate steps to take forward.”

Mr Swinney robustly defended the quality of home learning being offered, saying schools had done an “outstanding job” adapting to the new circumstances. Asked about using web conferencing platforms for direct teaching, he said: “Schools will make their judgment about what is the best way to interact with their pupils. I have seen a number of examples where pupils are interacting [with teachers] one to one.”