Coronavirus: ‘We must plan now for return to school'

In the latest Tes Scotland podcast, education boss Carrie Lindsay talks of the need to plan for the end of the lockdown

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: ‘We must plan now for return to school'

There are two things keeping Fife’s director of education and children’s services, Carrie Lindsay, awake at night, she reveals in this month’s Tes Scotland podcast, conducted remotely last week.

One of them is how she is going to get the 50,000-plus children in Fife who are now likely to be off for months due to the coronavirus pandemic settled back into school after the summer. Sometimes children are out of school for a few months because they have been visiting another country or sick, she says, but never the entire cohort.

“How do we transition all of these children – so for me my 53,000 children – how do I transition them back into a school learning environment when they basically will have been out of education for a number of months,” she asks.

“That does keep me awake a bit. We are thinking hard. We are trying to think ahead and plan strategically about what we need to put in place.”

Tes Scotland podcast: Episode 7, Carrie Lindsay

Background: Coronavirus stresses could be ‘trigger for abuse’

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Coronavirus: Nursery hours expansion plans put on hold

The other thought preoccupying her is the difficult circumstances that many families are now grappling with – she is especially concerned about large families, without enough food, living in flats with no gardens who feel “stuck” and who are now hidden behind closed doors.

The impact of coronavirus school closures

Ms Lindsay, who is also the president of the education directors' association ADES, said systems were being put in place to make sure that services like social work had “an eye and an ear” on the children they were most concerned about.

However, she called on teachers to continue taking an interest in the children they are responsible for and also on communities to be vigilant during the coronavirus pandemic and to play a part in drawing services ' attention to families who are struggling.

“There is a community responsibility here,” she says. “We need to make sure that we are encouraging all of our communities to be listening out for things that are going on behind closed doors. They can be our eyes and ears for us because we need to know if there are things that are happening that are not right and there are some families who will be absolutely struggling at this point in time and sometimes they don’t like to admit to that. So we need neighbours, we need people in communities to help us, to alert us if there are situations they are concerned about so that we can help.”

However, Ms Lindsay also says she thinks that the majority of children will really benefit from spending more time with their families and “some really good learning will come out of this period”.

Last week the government sent new guidance to councils and other key bodies – including Education Scotland – on child protection during the Covid-19 outbreak. It warned that the new stresses brought about by coronavirus “could be a trigger for abuse and neglect” at a time when children would be less visible and when the professionals who usually work with them would be “under acute pressure”.

Ms Lindsay also speaks in this month’s podcast about the Herculean efforts of staff to keep free school meals going and get provision for key workers and vulnerable children up and running; the Fife school that has set up its own TV channel for pupils; and why she thinks the government was right to put on hold the near doubling of funded nursery hours, due to be delivered in August.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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