- 1 Jul 2020
Items and actions
Teacher Panel members were welcomed to the virtual meeting of the Teacher Panel.
Education Recovery – Key Issues and Challenges/School Support for Vulnerable Children and Young People
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (DFM), began discussions by focusing on the first two agenda items, asking for the panel members to reflect on their experiences of teaching under such exceptional circumstances..
A number of observations were made by the panel:
- schools acknowledge that some pupils have experienced issues with accessing online learning. To mitigate this many schools have delivered learning packs to affected pupils, which has had the added benefit of maintaining personal contact. Teachers have also been contacting pupils and their families by phone and email
- many schools have addressed the issue of pupils who have not been engaging, and have provided those pupils with pastoral support through guidance teachers. In addition, the families of vulnerable pupils have been signposted to community organisations that offer support. Vulnerable pupils, however, remain a concern, especially for teachers who know of the pupils’ hectic home lives
- the panel provided positive feedback on the Glow platform, highlighting the significant role it has played in enabling digital learning and the distribution of learning materials, as well as facilitating contact with pupils. Teachers have appreciated the quality and volume of work that has been made available online
- the Insight benchmarking tool has been particularly helpful in assisting teachers to track who is online and when. The tracking of engagement and learning has also shown some schools achieving participation levels of 80-90%, and others 50% or less. It has been a challenge to identify the causes of this disparity and teachers are keen to share examples of good practice
- one panel member stressed the importance of building and maintaining relationships with pupils, and suggested that a lack of contact with pupils now may make future relationships difficult
- educational psychologists and counsellors have been invaluable in the current situation, providing extra contact and support and ensuring that pupils can still be referred to them if needed
- some schools were able to move to the hub model quickly and hubs have been a strong point, particularly for those pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN). Some hubs have a separate area for ASN pupils, and a number have ensured that the staff there are already known to the pupils
- there was agreement that Google Classroom has also been beneficial, proving popular with pupils and parents who have used it to keep in contact with schools
- transitions is a key area, with schools putting together lots of processes to ensure that transition activities still take place. One panel member confirmed that their school is contacting each family to arrange enhanced transition visits, allowing an opportunity for families to ask questions of teachers. Another member stated that their high school is using Google Classroom in a way that enables pupils to introduce themselves to each other
- one panel member queried the situation regarding PEF funding, stating that their local authority has advised its schools that any money not used by June 2020 will be taken away from them (Action point: Secretariat to bring this query to the attention of colleagues within the Scottish Attainment Challenge Policy Unit)
Having heard the views of the Teacher Panel members, DFM identified four themes arising from their comments:
- the amount of effort expended by teachers to ensure that learning continues to be made available to pupils
- digital learning and the availability of equipment – DFM stated that it was particularly interesting to hear how useful Glow and the other platforms are proving to be
- the ways in which hubs have developed and made a difference in ensuring that children and young people are supported
- support for vulnerable pupils and the methods for identifying those most at risk
DFM then asked the Teacher Panel “Where do we go from here?” He suggested that the question should be set in the context of wider decision-making by Scottish Government regarding coming out of lockdown. DFM listed four potential harms: harm arising from Covid-19; non-Covid health harm (particularly with regard to mental health); social harm (e.g. child protection/domestic abuse) and economic harm. The established framework will consider these four areas and will assist in ensuring that our forthcoming actions do not re-activate the virus.
DFM provided the panel with some background to the establishment and work of the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) and its 10 workstreams, and asked members for their thoughts on the stages of education recovery.
Teacher Panel members provided DFM with a number of comments including:
- there is a need for pupils to return to learning, otherwise there is a risk of a ‘lost generation’ who are not interacting with the world around them. Schools will need help in making their buildings safe for both staff and pupils to return to. It is essential for staff to have time in June to work on a transition into new ways of working, and it would be sensible for the pupils’ phased-return to begin in August
- the sector needs to recalibrate and accept that this is the ‘new normal’, where education can still be delivered but in a different way. We must also be aware that some courses may take longer than one year to complete. This presents a massive challenge and we need to identify what can be done right now to make sure we are doing the best for our pupils in the time available. Home-based learning is inevitable but face-to-face contact with children is vitally important – it would therefore be helpful if teachers were able to meet up with small groups of pupils
- social distancing with children can be difficult, especially with younger children. The P1 curriculum involves a lot of shared resourcing and group-working, so this will need to be looked at
- a key point is the amount of work the profession is having to undertake in order to upskill quickly. Furthermore thought needs to be given to what the physical school environment will look like for pupils, but this will come with many complications
- a big concern is pupil access to toilet facilities. For example some pupils have no option than to share one toilet facility for hand-washing
Education Scotland: Enhanced support for learning at home/professional learning support for head teachers and others
DFM moved the discussion onto the third agenda item, inviting Gayle Gorman, the Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland (CIE) to provide some background to the accompanying paper.
The CIE thanked Teacher Panel members for all the work they and their colleagues are doing, before providing more detail of Education Scotland’s enhanced support for home learning and the additional professional learning support available to teaching professionals.
Panel members were informed of the wide range of online learning materials, webinars, newsletters and other resources that are available tor professionals, parents and pupils alike. Attendees were informed that uptake of the resources made available by Education Scotland has been very high. The CIE confirmed that DFM has given his agreement for Glow’s live learning facility to be switched on, but it will be up to local authorities to weigh up the risks of using it.
DFM stated that he is keen to ensure that Education Scotland can continue to fulfil its role both at school and local authority level. He then invited panel members to comment.
A number of points were raised by panel members including the following:
- some schools have been problem solving around what teaching might look like when they re-open in August. One school has considered providing each pupil with 90 minutes of direct teaching each week. However issues may arise if teachers have to cover for colleagues who need to be absent from work if they are off sick or self-isolating. It would therefore be helpful to identify the most important parts of the curriculum and focus teaching on those
- teachers have been wondering how to group children when they return to school. Some have suggested grouping them by year group ability, whereas others would prefer mixed-ability groups. National guidance would therefore be useful
- the CIE confirmed that one of the CERG workstreams is looking at entitlement within the curriculum. She stated that it was interesting to hear that teachers would be keen for Education Scotland to issue guidance on different models and approaches, but warned that there would be both pros and cons to this as teachers know their buildings and pupils best. The CIE therefore suggested that any such national guidance could be adapted at a local level
DFM thanked attendees for their input, confirming that the conversation had provided him with valuable insight into many of the questions being faced at the moment. He wished the attendees well, stating that he looked forward to seeing everyone face-to-face in due course.