Schools and councils should use the millions of pounds being invested in closing the attainment gap to support remote learning in disadvantaged households during the coronavirus crisis, according to new guidance published by the Scottish government.
One of the key concerns since Scottish schools closed in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus has been the fate of children living in poverty, or in chaotic households. Last month the Scottish government published additional child protection guidance, which predicted there would be “a rise in child-protection concerns and child-protection caseloads” due to the “new stresses” arising from coronavirus.
Now, the government is stressing that it is prepared to be “flexible” about how attainment challenge money is spent, including Pupil Equity Funding, Challenge Authority funding, Schools’ Programme Funding and Care Experienced Children and Young People funding.
Coronavirus: Support for disadvantaged pupils
Some authorities were already using this flexibility to provide pupils with devices like laptops and tablets, it said. Others had spent it on books and other learning material; providing transport to enable some pupils to attend local authority hubs and childcare provision; and supporting home-school link workers to maintain regular contact with children.
Earlier this month the children’s commissioner, Bruce Adamson, told Tes Scotland that he was concerned that the uptake of school places for vulnerable pupils was “very, very low”.
Difficulty getting to the hubs, he suggested, could be one reason for the low attendance.
The guidance – entitled Supporting Pupils, Parents And Teachers – Learning During Term 4 – says: “We are very aware that the current situation is likely to affect disproportionately the most disadvantaged children and young people in our society. We recognise and value the efforts which colleagues across the country have already made to support our most disadvantaged children. Against that background, the Scottish government has provided local authorities with the flexibility they need to redirect resources aimed at closing the attainment gap to help mitigate the impacts of school closures on our most disadvantaged families.”
The guidance praises teachers for responding to coronavirus pandemic “with truly exceptional dedication and professionalism” and says there is “no expectation that the kind of learning approaches and experiences provided in schools will be replicated at home while schools are closed during Term 4”.
This sentiment was echoed by education secretary John Swinney, who said: “Given the unprecedented circumstances, we cannot predict when schools in Scotland will reopen. However, our focus is that while schools are closed, learning continues, and we all have a role to play.
“Local authorities, schools, teachers and practitioners know their learners really well and have shown extraordinary dedication and professionalism in adapting and making decisions in the best interests of the children and young people.
“While we do not expect teachers, parents and families to replicate schools or classrooms, we are committed to working with all partners in Scotland’s education system to protect pupils’ wellbeing, and ensure learning can continue in an appropriate way, wherever possible.”
The guidance was prepared by the Scottish government and Education Scotland, with input from local government organisations Cosla and Solace; directors’ association ADES; and the professional associations.
It was published today to coincide with what should have been the first day of the final school term in most Scottish local authorities and covers three main areas:
- Learning and teaching at home: this includes support for digital learning; children who are likely to be disproportionately impacted; and learners with additional support needs.
- Parental involvement and engagement: this includes details of local and national support and how local authorities/schools will require a different approach to being updated on a child’s development.
- Support for teachers and school leaders: including advice on learning resources; supporting pupils’ and staff health and wellbeing; and on leading colleagues and teams during this period.