EDUCATION: More than one pupil in 10 off school even after classrooms reopened 

By Democrat reporter

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today called for the Scottish Government to step up support for schools and pupils, as she revealed that despite the resumption of in-person teaching in the final months of the 2020/21 school year, 1 in 10 pupils were not in school.

In response to a parliamentary question from Ms Wishart, pictured above, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed that that between April and June 2021, the combined rate for pupils not in school due to Covid-19 related reasons and Non-Covid-19 related reasons was 10.4%.

Ms Wishart said: “These figures confirm the scale of the disruption that pupils have faced. Even after in-person teaching resumed, disruption remained rife.

“The year as a whole was extremely difficult for everyone involved. As classrooms are set up for pupils’ return, the Scottish Government shouldn’t just leave teachers to get on with it again. They need every support and resource available.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to giving every young person the best start in life. That means giving more in-class support to children who need it, and improving teachers’ workloads and conditions, so we recruit and retain people who are passionate about teaching. It also means improving teachers’ contracts with a teacher job guarantee, permanent contracts and a workforce plan so the profession is secure for the long-term.”

Meanwhile, the parliamentary question answered by Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, pictured left,  is as follows:

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what the absence rate for pupils has been between April and June 2021 and how this rate compares to to the absence rates in each of the academic years since 2017/18.

Shirley-Anne Somerville: The Scottish Government only collects school pupil attendance and absence information every 2 years, so no data is available for 2017-18.

Information for 2018/19 shows that for term 3 (covering the period roughly April-June) the combined authorised and unauthorised absence rate was 7.6%.

In 2019-20, schools/hubs were only open to the children and young people of keyworkers, and those who were vulnerable, in the period April to June 2020.(due to the Covid pandemic). Therefore, most children and young people were not to attend school during this period. As such, at its highest, only around 1.7% of all pupils were attending these schools/hubs at any given time during this period.

For 2020-21, for the period in question (i.e. April to June 2021), the combined rate for pupils not in school due to Covid-19 related reasons and Non-Covid-19 related reasons was 10.4%. Note that this data has been produced on a slightly different basis to the biennial National Statistics publication. For example, some pupils who are currently counted as ‘not being in school’ may in fact be recorded as being in attendance (e.g. pupils who were self-isolating but were able to learn from home) when the Scottish Government publishes its usual National Statistics publication on School Attendance and Absence 2020/21 which is due later this year.

Care should be made if attempting to compare results across academic years due to varying ways in how this data was gathered over the most recent academic years, together with variation in the levels of quality assurance being undertaken on the data gathered. 

Scottish Liberal Democrats have put forward proposals for:

  • A teacher job guarantee. No teacher should be unemployed or feel underemployed when the new school term begins in August. We need the talents of everyone in the teaching profession, so children get the most out of their time back in school. Every qualified teacher should be guaranteed a job. They will help with smaller class sizes, more one-on-one help, and additional support needs in the classroom.
  • New pupil support assistants to give more in-class support to children who need it.

One comment

  1. A blighted generation going forward.

    Blighted because the substantial deficits sustained when the school years should have been laying down the base skills will mar absolutely the ability to progress in further education.

    Yes it may be a perceived success story to award the majority of our school pupils good grades, better than before in fact, but does anyone really think these pupils will be moving on with the level of core skills needed.

    And the biggest victim will be the further education STEM courses where sound abilities in maths and physics are an absolute necessity to progress. Our school pupils have not been served well by a failed education system.

    Yes COVID May have been a problem, or a challenge as onecsays these days, but has education met the challenge these last years – and before in fact.

    Answer is sadly of course a big No!

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