The Scottish Government understands the significant ongoing impact that COVID-19 is having on the lives of everyone in Scotland and, in particular, on our children and young people. Alongside our key partners in local authorities and other stakeholder groups, we are committed to doing all we can to support our young people to overcome these challenges, both through our existing measures to reduce the attainment gap, and through new policy initiatives and investments which we have introduced since the start of the pandemic.
We published the key actions and next steps for education recovery in October 2021. It sets out the action we and our partners in the education system have taken to date, and some key next steps in the coming period to support our learners to achieve their goals in life. It also summarises how we plan to build on the innovation and strengths that have emerged during the pandemic. It consists of the following themes:
- ELC - Early learning and childcare (ELC) plays a vital role in supporting families and we know that attending high quality ELC is linked with improved outcomes for children. That is why, throughout the pandemic, we continued to provide access to ELC for those children who need it most and why we prioritised the re-opening of ELC to all children ahead of the re-opening of other sectors.
- Health and Wellbeing - Health and wellbeing, including mental health, has been foremost in our consideration when developing our response to the pandemic, and will continue to be a priority as we move into the renewal phase.
- Supporting Learning and Attainment – All the evidence tells us that children and young people benefit from learning within schools, and alongside their peers. Our primary aim has been to ensure schools have remained low-risk, open and welcoming to staff, children and young people during the pandemic.
- Ensuring Equity – We are determined to maintain a focus on excellence and equity for all our children and young people, and have committed to investing a further £1bn to support education recovery and tackle the poverty related attainment gap through the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
- Additional Support Needs – COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many children and young people with additional support needs, and our goal during these challenging times has been to maintain attendance and engagement in learning wherever possible, while seeking to ensure that children and young people continue to be able to access the right support, at the right time, from the right people.
- National Qualifications - Despite the challenges of the pandemic, a very strong set of results were delivered for the 2021 National Qualifications. Almost 137,000 candidates received their formal results from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on 10 August – the highest number of certificates since 2017.
- Supporting Positive Destinations for Children and Young People - The disruption caused by COVID-19 to in-person learning has been extremely challenging for students of colleges, universities and community learning settings. The Scottish Government and partners have put in place a range of measures to support online learning and recovery.
- Supporting the Workforce - The workforce will continue to play a vital role in supporting our children and young people to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and it is essential that staff in all education settings are given the support they need to do this.
To further support education recovery, in the first 100 days of the new parliamentary term the Scottish Government:
- Funded councils to increase teacher numbers by 1,000 and classroom assistants by 500 – as part of our commitment to deliver 3,500 additional teachers and 500 classroom assistants over this parliamentary term.
- Removed fees for instrumental music tuition in schools with a one year deal (with COSLA) ensuring no family faces charges in 2021-22.
- Introduced free school lunches for primary 4 and 5 children as the first step to delivering free school breakfasts and lunches for all primary school pupils.
- Increased Best Start Food funding to £4.50 per week, helping families with children under three to buy healthy foods.
- Worked with local government to raise the School Clothing Grant to at least £120 per primary school child and £150 per secondary pupil, backed by £11.8m extra funding.
- Scrapped core curriculum charges in 2021-22, enabling all pupils to take the subjects they want without families having to struggle to meet costs for practical lessons.
- Issued the first instalment of the £1 billion investment, totalling £215 million, to support education recovery and tackle the poverty related attainment gap through the Scottish Attainment Challenge – including a one-off £20 million Pupil Equity Funding COVID-19 Premium bringing the investment in Pupil Equity Funding to £147 million.
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