SNP Education Secretary John Swinney has finally bowed to pressure and announced funding to recruit 2,000 new teachers in order to support schools across Scotland.
However, Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary Jamie Greene has questioned why this commitment of new funding has only come almost ten months into the Covid pandemic and after the SNP presided over cuts of 3,000 teachers in Scotland’s schools as well as seeing Scotland slide down international league tables under the SNP.
Mr Greene is also urging John Swinney to commit the funding for extra teachers beyond the current financial year, to guarantee the required number of teachers will be hired.
He added that Mr Swinney has had months to prepare for further school closures and rather than putting plans for remote learning in place in advance, he has been left playing catch up at the last minute.
He is also calling for further clarity to be given by the SNP Education Secretary on any potential phased return of pupils, if the SNP Government decide that rates of Covid transmission allow some pupils to return safely.
The Scottish Conservatives have called for a doubling of funding to be made available for remote learning if schools are to be closed beyond February 1, in order to distribute devices to those pupils who need them most.
Commenting, Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary Jamie Greene said: “While this commitment from the SNP Government to fund more teachers is welcome, it is yet another example of John Swinney finally doing the right thing at the last minute.
“These teachers have been needed not only during the pandemic, but for many years, as Scotland has fallen down international league tables whilst teacher numbers have been repeatedly slashed.
“Our teachers have gone above and beyond during this pandemic and continue to do so and simply deserve better leadership and support from those in charge.
“A phased return for more pupils to return to classroom learning would be welcome and if that is to be the case, the SNP Government need to provide the clearest possible guidance to teachers and parents.
“John Swinney has also failed to guarantee every pupil who needs a device will get one, which will only widen the attainment gap even further on his watch.”
The Scottish Conservative proposals for online learning include:
- Distribute the missing 38,000 devices immediately. The funding has been in place for six months but less than 60 per cent of the promised devices have been provided to children and young people so far. National school closures mean nothing is more urgent than getting these devices out to families who have no other way to learn.
- Double support for remote education to £50 million if closures are extended beyond 1 February. If the course of the pandemic means children are not able to return to school full-time at the end of January, efforts must be stepped up to ensure no child is left behind. The SNP should double their investment in devices to ensure all Scottish children eligible for free school meals are supported.
- Ensure families have the internet access they need to support remote education. As well as providing laptops and tablets, the SNP must ensure families have mobile data or Wi-Fi in order to engage with education online. The SNP should work with mobile providers to give data boosts to families who need them and ‘zero rate’ key education sites so they do not cost families to use them.
- Provide schools with clear guidance on how to provide high quality remote education and signpost parents to appropriate resources. Guidance has been vague, leaving parents unsure of what to expect from schools while children are at home. The SNP should publish more comprehensive guidance for schools and parents, and ensure parents are able to easily access quality assured online resources.
- Guarantee that any children unable to learn at home can attend school. Children who are unable to learn due to a lack of devices, internet or space at home should be classed as vulnerable and invited to attend school so they do not fall behind.