'Pupils need individualised support – not more school'

Teaching union rejects call for an eight-hour extension to the school week to help pupils catch up on lost learning

Emma Seith

The EIS teachers' union has spoken out against a proposal for an eight-hour extension to the school week to help pupils catch up on learning lost during the coronavirus pandemic

Scotland’s biggest teaching union has dismissed a think tank’s suggestion that pupils will need an extra eight hours a week in school to catch up following lockdown, saying “targeted and meaningful support” for pupils will be needed, not “a formulaic approach”.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, made his comment after proposals on education were released by a think tank today.

The Commission on School Reform had previously claimed that six extra hours of schooling per week would be needed to repair the educational damage caused by the coronavirus lockdowns. However, a new report from the group, which includes education academics and is part of the Reform Scotland think tank, says further school closures mean extra catch-up work will be needed.

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Now it is suggesting that eight extra hours of tuition per week for two years, or five hours per week over three years, will be needed.

However, Mr Flanagan rejected the one-size-fits all plan, saying what will be needed is “massive investment” and individualised support for pupils.

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He called for every teacher seeking work to be deployed to support pupils and said it was “entirely wrong” to dismiss the work and progress made whilst pupils have been learning remotely.

Mr Flanagan said: “Massive investment is indeed required to support education recovery. That investment will primarily be in terms of staff but, rather than taking a formulaic approach to adding in extra hours of formal schooling, we should be looking at more support for individual pupils by creating smaller class sizes, specialist support for pupils with additional support needs, and targeted and meaningful support for pupils, and their families, from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We currently have thousands of teachers on temporary contracts or zero-hours supply lists – this is borderline scandalous given the needs of pupils. Every single teacher currently seeking work should be deployed to support young people in their education.”

Highlighting the wider impact of the pandemic on young people, Mr Flanagan added: “A prerequisite for education recovery remains the need to address pupil wellbeing and mental health. The impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health is difficult to overstate and must be properly addressed with tailored support to promote mental wellbeing.”

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the Commission on School Reform think tank, updated the group’s research from July last year.

Professor Paterson said: “Children in Scotland will have lost around four months of schooling since March – that’s around 40 per cent of a normal school year.

“Although thousands of teachers have been providing good quality online learning and parents have done the best they can, the closures have led to a massive loss of learning.

“Many children will have actually gone backwards because such interruptions can lead to them forgetting what they have learned before.

“With an end to closures now in sight, it is time to turn our attention to how to recover the learning that has been lost.”

He added: “We estimate it at 16 weeks and have suggested an eight-hour extension to the school week for two years, or a five-hour extension over three years.

“The Scottish and UK governments are to be commended on the significant sums of money they are spending on the Covid recovery.

“There will be no money better spent than on ensuring our children’s education does not suffer.”

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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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