School Closures (Support for Pupils)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24 March 2021.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what it is doing to ensure that pupils are able to catch up on any learning lost as a result of school closures. (S5O-05143)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The term “lost learning” is not an appropriate description of the challenges that we face, and focusing on it does a disservice to the work of school staff across the country. Last week, the education recovery group reinforced the importance of supporting children through positive action, with a need to focus on wellbeing in learning as we move towards the full-time return to school.

Work is already under way to consider what support our young people might require over the summer term and the summer holiday. We are working with local authorities and Education Scotland, which share that ambition, and discussions are under way to understand what strategic action is needed at the national level to support and facilitate specific and meaningful local activity in schools.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for his answer but, with respect, my children have lost out. There are things that they have not been able to learn in the past year because of the closure, and that needs to be caught up on at some point. The London School of Economics says that we need to invest millions of pounds into doing that, and the Conservative Party will fund £120 million, spread across two years. Can the cabinet secretary provide assurances that the Scottish Government’s catch-up programme will be similarly ambitious in scale? Will the Government allocate funding directly to schools, which are best placed to target funding where it is most needed?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I will not reiterate the comments that I made about the language and terminology that Mr Balfour insists on using in his question. I do not think that it is a particularly helpful description of the challenges that we face.

I think that young people have learned a great deal during lockdown. That is a tribute to their families and carers, who have supported them, and to their schools, for supporting their learning. A great deal has been accomplished through remote learning, which has supported young people adequately. This morning, I explained at length to the Education and Skills Committee the importance of supporting individual learning, and the education system will ensure that that such learning is supported.

The voters will have a choice on 6 May and we will see what they make of the Conservative Party’s plans. However, based on the performance of the Conservative Party at the moment and its shocking, shabby behaviour over the past few weeks, I do not expect that its message will attract much support from the public in Scotland.