Leader praises teachers in latest Council column
Posted on 29 Apr 2020
I hope everyone is well and keeping safe and healthy during these difficult times.
Our way of living has changed so much in recent weeks and that can be extremely challenging for so many different reasons, particularly for our young people.
As a father to a soon-to-be five year old, I know for younger children it’s very difficult to understand why they can’t see their friends or grandparents.
For those a bit older, like my 12 year old niece, the initial excitement of no school has long worn off, replaced with a longing for close friends and a return to a normal routine.
And, of course, we have the senior pupils who are missing out on exams that they have been working so hard towards, not just year but over many years in secondary school. Talking to parents in recent weeks, I know it’s an incredibly difficult time for them as they face the months long wait not for the results of exams they sat but an assessment of their educational performance which is now out with their control.
It has been an enormous challenge for our teachers and support staff too. But they have risen to it and I must say a personal thanks to all of them for their hard work, they have an outstanding ability to adapt so quickly to the changing situation, using innovative methods to stay in touch with their pupils and introduce home learning.
This cannot be easy for them. Teachers and school staff build special bonds with pupils and I’m sure all our teachers will be missing the daily, personal interactions they have. But they should be proud of how they have adapted to a new way of supporting those pupils because the feedback I have had from parents on the work of our teachers during this crisis has been phenomenal, they are a credit to their schools and profession.
Things have moved so fast with Covid-19 and young people would have suffered in the first few days and weeks of the lockdown if teams across education hadn’t done so much work prior to closure to ensure we provided the best support possible.
The Council’s Educational Psychology Service put together advice on the importance of doing activities that promote curiosity and build positive relationships and these have been shared with staff to support learning.
All learners across primary and secondary stages have received online resources through Glow, the national online learning environment, and other platforms. Many schools have also set up groups on Microsoft Teams in Glow to enable them to keep in touch with learners.
Learners who are unable to access digital platforms have been issued with physical, paper-based learning packs so that they are still engaged in learning. In addition, many schools have provided equipment, including digital devices, to support their learners.
So we have covered a lot of bases – but none of it would be possible without the teachers and staff. They have worked hard to ensure all of this in place, they have shown from day one of this crisis that they genuinely care and want the best for our young people.
On the burning issue of exams, last week the Scottish Qualifications Authority issued more details on how grades will be determined this year now that exams have been cancelled.
I recognise that this is not an easy situation for the SQA, it is unprecedented and is so important for the futures of those who were set to sit exams. No assessment system, which is not based on exam results, would be perfect and with much emphasis placed on teacher assessment, who know their pupils educational ability best, I am confident our local teachers will do their very best to award fair and accurate grades for young people.
My major concern is the additional checks that the SQA have included in the process – in particular their decision that a school’s previous exam performance will part of the assessment process after the submission of teacher assessment. I am really concerned that this will only ingrain the class-based attainment gap, not taking cognisance of the work the Council and schools carried out to try and bridge that over recent years. It would be desperately unfair on pupils if their futures were to suffer as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.