There are no plans to take a blanket approach to increasing pupils’ learning time or the intensity of learning time. Individual schools will work with pupils, as they do every year, to identify ways to supplement learning as appropriate and we encourage schools and local authorities to target support where it is most needed, including tutoring if required.
In addition, e-Sgoil will be providing an Easter senior-phase study support programme, which will begin in April; it is currently gathering input from learners to best design that programme. Teachers are contracted to work 195 days a year. Any additional cover for summer holidays would need to be agreed, and it would need to be done on a voluntary basis.
The needs of children should be at the heart of this. Children have lost a lot of education and it is really important that we support them to make up for that loss. However, children have been affected in a plethora of ways and we need to keep in mind their wellbeing as a whole as we go through the rest of the pandemic and into the recovery phase.
I put on record my thanks to all the staff in our schools for all that they have done for our children and grandchildren during this very long pandemic.
I hear what the First Minister has said but does she agree with me—as I think that she does—that school is so much more than the three Rs, to use the old-fashioned shorthand? School is so important for the wellbeing and social development of our children. That has been lost over these months, and a version of summer school might provide it.
I think that we should properly consider all those things. There is a big job of work to be done, which will not be completed quickly, to make sure that the impact on our young people does not turn into a long-term impact that they are saddled with for the rest of their lives. It is about making sure that we help them to make up for lost education and lost learning time but it is also about supporting them to deal with the wider impacts: the separation from their friends; the worry and anxiety that Covid has no doubt brought their parents and them; and the long periods of time without seeing close relatives such as grandparents. That is all having a deep emotional impact on our young people.
I think that whatever we do in the months and perhaps years to come has to take account of recovery in the wider sense so that, whatever else happens or does not happen, this generation of young people do not pay a lifelong price for what I hope will be a once-in-a-century pandemic that we are unfortunate enough to be living through.