Parents and teachers prepare for phased return of Scottish pupils

by Rebecca Weinberg

Scotland’s youngest pupils are set to return to school next week, drawing both optimism and concern from parents and teachers alike.

All children between primaries one to three, and children in pre-school, will receive face-to-face teaching from Monday 22 February. Aside from high school pupils finishing coursework, all other age groups will resume learning at home.

Mother-of-three Anne Hughes, 45, feels that her six-year-old son Danny’s return to school will benefit her family, who have found at-home learning challenging at times.

Anne said: “We’re in a better position than a lot of other families. We’ve got the heating on, we’ve got food in the cupboard, we’ve got tablets and laptops… But, it is very stressful.”

Anne, who currently works from home in Govan as a freelance charity consultant, emphasised that she and her husband find it difficult to support their children through very different stages of at-home schooling.

“We’re teaching our youngest son how to read and write; our 13-year-old has to pick her options, but she’s not had the experience of some subjects, and [she’s] got that anxiety that comes with being 13 and not seeing anybody; and then we’ve got a 17-year-old who’s just started Law at university. So we’ve got it all going on, and it’s an awful lot sometimes.”

Danny returning to school will mean that her older children will be able to receive more help and guidance from their parents, since home-schooling a six-year-old currently requires a lot more attention.

Overall, Anne is pleased with the phased return, with her only main concern being the possibility of increased Covid transmission between parents at the school gate.

Meanwhile, Sheena, a primary school teacher from Fife, is also overall optimistic about the phased return, and is hopeful that her primary four and five classes will be able to return soon after.

“I just can’t wait to get back, honestly. I know there’s risks, but they do say that the risk of transmission in school is minimal. I don’t really think of myself at being at risk in school, because we’re all very careful, and we have strict protocols to follow.”

Sheena described how at-home learning has been difficult for some of her pupils, who are between the ages of eight and nine.

She said: “Every week we have to keep a careful note of who’s engaging, and I’ve got about six kids that I’ve not heard a peep from ever since Christmas. That’s a quarter of my class. The [school] is supposed to be following these children up every week with a phone call, but it’s difficult. Even with the best will in the world, it’s really hard for some parents.”

Sheena expressed that the quality of her pupil’s work is often suffering due to a lack of in-class feedback and interaction.

“The kids will do things for you as a teacher that they won’t do with their parents, and it’s not fair to expect parents to have that kind of relationship with their kids. I don’t know how far they’ve fallen behind. I think there will be a lot of catching up to do.”

With the government waiting to review the outcome of this initial return, the First Minister has called it “unlikely” that other pupils will return to school before March 15.

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