Education Failings Extend Beyond Longer Holidays

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“Once the global leader, a victim of the pandemic has been Scotland’s education system with its meteoric drop in standards.”

Ewan Gurr: Scottish education system a victim of coronavirus failings (eveningtelegraph.co.uk)

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph 11/01/2021

When the Scottish Government announced in November its “cautious and limited” five-day amnesty for Christmas and the UK Government announced it had awarded medical authorisation for Covid-19 vaccines, it unleashed a welcome air of optimism in an otherwise bleak year. Then, one week before Christmas, a more potent variant emerged, the five-day offer was rescinded and whatever golden embers of hope had been reignited were again extinguished by the viral winds of coronavirus.

One of the victims of the pandemic has been Scotland’s education system. Once the global leader, it has experienced a meteoric drop in standards. In 2015, Scotland’s First Minister delivered a speech to educators stating she was willing to put her “neck on the line on education.” She added: “Let me be clear – I want to be judged on this.” Last July, the Scottish Government shelved its flagship Education Bill and withdrew from international tables. Unfortunately, the report card is not looking good.

Last Monday, Nicola Sturgeon announced a new Scotland-wide lockdown and the closure of schools, described by her as “low-risk environments” for the virus, until February. Only a day earlier, the former UK Chief Inspector of Education Amanda Spielman wrote: “We cannot furlough young people’s learning…” Her words followed concerns raised by Scotland’s own Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, who said school closures pose a “risk to the wellbeing of children.”

However, concerned parents of Dundee schoolchildren state failings in education exceed the extension of Christmas holidays to February. Tim Hogan, whose eight and six-year-old children Chris and Tessa, attend Rosebank Primary School in Coldside, said: “Prior to Christmas, I asked my kids if they were cold in their classrooms and both told me that they were. They also said windows were being left open and pupils had to keep their coats on to remain warm.”

Tim, 51, said: “I sent my son in with a temperature gauge and he reported it was 14°C in the classroom, which is completely unacceptable.” He added: “I cannot imagine councillors and council employees working from home or in offices with windows open in freezing winter conditions, yet they deem this as appropriate for our children in schools.” Mr Hogan sent E-Mails to the Head Teacher, Manager of the Children and Families Service and the Convenor of Children and Families.

He received a response from the Convenor – Councillor Stewart Hunter – confirming the implementation of ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19): Guidance on Reducing Risks in Schools’. However, the guidance itself states: “The key requirement for local authorities is to work with schools to identify and implement local approaches that balance the need for fresh air in key parts of the school estate with the maintenance of adequate temperatures.” 

Mr Hogan, correctly, does not believe 14°C is an adequate temperature and expressed relief his children will be at home for next few weeks, adding: “At least I will know our bairns are not being taught in a fridge.”

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