By Rory Murphy
Pupils across West Dunbartonshire will be given access to additional lessons as part of an initiative to ensure no child is disadvantaged by the Coronavirus pandemic.
They will be offered additional lessons as part of the recovery strategy to raise attainment.
A programme of intense lessons for individuals and small groups will be provided after school, at the weekends and during school holidays. Funding to support 4,300 hours of lessons split equally between both primary and secondary pupils will be delivered by teachers, support staff and officers from the Working 4U learning team.
Evidence from the Education Endowments Foundation confirms that one-to-one tuition is effective in delivering approximately five additional months’ progress in pupils and short, regular sessions three to five times a week over a period of six to twelve weeks, can offer the best results.
However, Jim Halfpenny of the EIS teaching union, has issued a warning note to the SNP administration on the Council.
He said: “Extra funding to education is always welcome and it goes without saying that ‘one to one’ teaching is likely to be more effective than having to teach a class of thirty students.
“Unfortunately, additional lessons for individual pupils and small groups provided after school, at the weekends and during school holidays as part of a recovery strategy to raise attainment will only scratch the surface.
“However, the basic logic is there. In these difficult times money should be available for the employment, on a permanent basis, of the many teachers still looking for work in order to reduce class sizes with the resultant educational benefits and in turn make it possible to maintain 2 metre distancing which is lacking in schools at the moment.”
The employment of these extra teachers would go some way to reducing teacher workload which is now “off the scale,” said Mr Halfpenny.
He added: “At this stage in the pandemic, with the suggestion that we may be heading for another spike in infections, we would argue that Blended Learning must be an essential factor in plans over the next few months.
“Regrettably, the decision by the Scottish Government to send S1-S3 back one day a week for three weeks then all pupils back after the Easter holidays, which is opposed by their own advisory group and trade unions, has thrown schools into disarray and replicates their previous error of judgement last August when they insisted on all pupils returning despite schools having prepared for Blended Learning.
“West Dunbartonshire EIS would reiterate the statement by our Assistant General Secretary, Andrea Bradley who said: ‘The decision seemed to be a political one rather than one that was based on sound educational principle’.
“Certainly it wasn’t one that has taken account of the very real circumstances in which teachers are working – under quite significant stress and pressure over the last six months.”
Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “This funding will be a great benefit to both primary and secondary pupils. We know through the engagement figures of Remote Learning that our children and young people worked hard and were engaged with their learning.
“For some pupils, additional hours of learning will support any loss of learning during this time due to the pandemic.
“Our pupils have a great appetite for learning and through our dedicated staff we will ensure pupils benefit from these additional hours of support.”
Councillor Ian Dickson, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “I am really pleased to see this additional funding to support intense lessons for our pupils. This intensive support can be really effective in supporting pupils who are struggling and will make a real difference to their learning. I’m sure our schools and pupils will make good use of this additional resource and I would like to thank the teachers and support staff both from education and Working 4U in helping to ensure no pupil is left behind due to the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Councillors Karen Conaghan and Ian Dickson.
All eligible families across West Dunbartonshire will have access to 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare by the end of April.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to the additional provision for all three and four-year-olds as well as eligible two-year-olds was delayed last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1950 of West Dunbartonshire children are already accessing the 1140 hours, and now increased capacity due to additional and expanded Early Learning and Childcare Centres being introduced mean that the remaining 288 can receive their entitlement.
Work at Dalreoch, Dalmonach and Gavinburn ELCCs is due for completion next month, and Linnvale Early Learning and Childcare Centre will also be refurbished to offer additional places within Clydebank.
A brand new facility at Carleith PS, Carleith ELCC opened on 8 March and centres at Ladyton, Brucehill, St Mary’s Duntocher and Lennox Early Education and Childcare Centre in Faifley will offer increased hours by the end of this month.
Partner nurseries providing 1140 hours of early learning and childcare which remained open over the lockdown from December to February to support vulnerable children and children of key workers, will receive a Temporary Restrictions Fund grant. Additional childcare providers including out of school care providers and childminders registered to care for more than 12 children at a time will also be able to apply for an additional support grant.
Childcare services can use the money to protect their business and ability to continue to delivering services when reopening.
Childminders in partnership with the Council who were not subject to the same restrictions by remaining open from December to February can apply for a grant of £500 to £1,000 from the Scottish Childminding Association.
Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “I am really pleased to see our implementation of 1140 hours is near completion and I would like to thank everyone involved in delivering this facility to local families. This will be welcome news for the families whose places have been on hold due to the pandemic. We are on track for the final phase of works completed by the end of April which will see West Dunbartonshire Council delivering 1140 hours of free childcare to every eligible family.”
Depute Convener of Educational Services, Councillor Ian Dickson, said: “Delivery of this entitlement will enable parents and carers to plan ahead and consider further education or employment. I know our Officers have worked tirelessly to implement the expanded hours and offer the children of West Dunbartonshire their free entitlement as soon as possible. Their commitment is not only appreciated by the Council, but by every family across the authority.”
Meanwhile, responding to the news that the Scottish Government will give MSPs alone a confidential OECD “summary of draft preliminary findings” on Scottish education, on the condition it isn’t made public, cited or quoted, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie commented: “This is an insult to the people of the country that they can’t be trusted with a 7-page summary of preliminary recommendations.
“People will draw their own conclusions that the SNP are not prepared for their record on education to be judged at the election. This is a summary of fraction of a report, in a private library, under lock and key.
“This is a bind of the government’s own making. It agreed to the OECD reporting a month after the election. John Swinney didn’t even contact the OECD after he told Parliament he would be “happy to discuss” getting something sooner. The upcoming election will allow the people of Scotland a chance for change.”