EDUCATION: Wishart sets out catch up proposals in letter to Education Minister John Swinney

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan called for “the rapid employment of supply teachers”.

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today sent a letter to Education Secretary John Swinney urging him to introduce urgent measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for pupils who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.

Her letter comes after EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan called for “the rapid employment of supply teachers currently seeking work to provide additional support to those pupils struggling to engage with remote learning.” 

Larry Flanagan EIS, Education Secretary John Swinney and LibDem Beatrice Wishart.

In a letter to John Swinney, Ms Wishart wrote:  “Teachers are working flat out to give pupils the best education they can. But supply teachers are telling me that they have consistently been underemployed since the start of the pandemic.

“I am writing to urge you to immediately lend your support to the introduction of new measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for pupils who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.

“I believe such a new catch-up mechanism, rooted in the judgement of class teachers, could help dampen the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning.

“The loss of routine, time spent with friends and full access to normal learning has been hard and children have missed out on so much over the past year. The evidence I am receiving is that supply teachers have the capacity to help bridge some of that gap, both during the current period of remote learning but also once schools return.

“They have valuable skills and experience, and can provide precious additional support. We should be looking to bring in every helping hand available.

“The nationwide package agreed in the spring for supply teachers helped with their initial predicament. But I believe there is now an urgent need to establish new catch-up mechanisms, and that supply teachers can be a part of this.”

Meanwhile,  Beatrice Wishart MSP has written to the Minister for Children and Young People to demand that legislation securing childcare funding for parents who want to defer their child’s school start is immediately brought forward.

Following the campaign run by ‘Give them Time’, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd agreed on the need for legislation to upgrade parent’s right to defer and still receive funded childcare. However, the legislative tweak proposed by the Scottish Government would only make this change from August 2023.

She said: “If the Scottish Government genuinely accepts that parents have the right to defer when they believe it is the best thing to do for their child, then it should make the change now and cover the costs. 

“The Minister must do the right thing and make it a priority to fund all deferrals this year. Childcare already places a massive strain on family finances. The prospect of extra costs means that families may be dissuaded from making the right choice for their child. 

“Children only start school once, so there is only one chance to get this right for every child. Leaving this financial barrier in place until 2023 has real implications for parents’ decision making and means three cohorts of children will miss out on guaranteed funding.”

The LibDems also had a contribution to make on criminal justice.

Fraud rises 65% year-on-year

Responding to new figures showing that reports of fraud were 65% higher in December 2020 as compared to December 2019, Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “For many months now, there have been consistent reports of increases in fraud. It is clear that this is a real problem.

“It is shameful that while the country works together to fend off a deadly pandemic, some are seeing opportunities to cheat people, and cause even further grief.

“It’s clear that in an increasingly digital age the ‘same old’ just won’t do. The Scottish Government need to muster up a targeted plan, so that vulnerable people are not left to fight these fraudsters alone.”

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