Time to get schools back full-time says Cllr Caroline Shiers

Next week at a full meeting of Perth and Kinross Council draft proposals will be presented  for what education provision will look like in Perth and Kinross from 11 August. I have been contacted by many concerned parents who, like myself, are struggling with the challenges of working at home and supporting  children with their learning. It has been a tremendously difficult time and not helped by the ongoing lack of clarity from the Scottish Government. 

A huge amount of work is going into the proposals to get our children and young people back to school in Perth and Kinross and I am grateful to all the PKC officers,  Head Teachers and staff in our schools who are working out how to do this safely so everyone can have confidence when the school gates reopen to pupils. I look forward to having a chance to scrutinise the proposal officers will make in the recovery plan which will be presented to the council.

As a working parent I fully understand the stresses this is putting on families. Whilst there have been lovely opportunities to spend more time with our children, I am well aware that I am not a qualified teacher and therefore can never make up for that time my children would have had with people who are qualified to educate them. From speaking to parents and carers in my council ward  I know how much of a strain this has been on families and, as we have moved through the phases to recover from Covid-19, there is now a need for us to have a clear focus on our children and their futures.

What Councils, parents and carers  need now is clarity from the Scottish Government and a clear commitment that they will provide the resources needed to get pupils back into schools in August. We can not put a price on the future of our children. Their emotional, physical and educational wellbeing can only be properly supported in schools.  The high percentage of pupils not engaging in online learning is also a real concern. Since I became Convenor we have focussed on doing all we can to work across the political divide in Perth and Kinross to support those most likely to be at a disadvantage in our communities -  if there is any hope of closing the attainment gap then children and young people need to be in school. We need to quickly assess what gaps have developed in any of their learning over the period of Lockdown and get these pupils back on track.

Coupled with the educational benefits there is the certainty for parents and carers that they can get back to work. This will be good for families and for our local economy.  We need to get our children and young people back to school full- time and we need a clear plan and date for that happening.