Many parents have been bombarded with advice and information about education in Highland during the lockdown and slow easing of restrictions that we should expect soon. Many however have had very little useful advice, and some are concerned about whether their children are learning at home in the best ways possible.
At the end of this post there are some links offering alternative sources of information and thoughts about the future, pending any clarity from the Scottish Government about what it intends to do to get children back into schools. The failure of the Scottish Government to pass on UK Government emergency funding to Councils is a major concern for all Scottish Local Authorities, and Highland Council is in a particularly difficult financial situation. However, the Chromebook programme has meant that Highland schools have been able to deliver remote teaching to most P6 to S6 pupils in most courses.
Those of you with children in the Senior Phase will likely know that Nationals, Higher and Advanced Higher grades will be determined by the SQA https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/94077.html using estimations based on evidence supplied by teachers. There is huge concern about the transparency, equity and impartiality of this process and it is likely that many thousands of pupils will appeal grades received on 4th August.
There is particular concern for the many pupils who have been taught by multiple substitute and supply teachers and have had little to no consistency of teaching staff in the period leading up to Prelims. If your child has been affected by this issue, you might want to write now to your Head Teacher and MSPs about your concerns: do not wait until August.
Many teachers will no doubt feel that they are going to be blamed if grades awarded do not match pupil and parent expectations, but teachers have no control over what the SQA does with the information provided. Please stay in touch with your Head Teacher about the situation, and consider setting up an emergency online PC meeting for 4 or 5 August if you have a lot of concerned parents who think they may need to appeal grades.
What does the current situation mean for Parent Councils?
Firstly, you can still fundraise, but traditional events are just not an option, so be more direct and tell pupils, parents, grandparents and local businesses what your funding needs are and ask for what help they can give. Use things like easyfundraising https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/ and Amazon Smile https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ to collect from online shopping. Also be sensitive to varying ability to support your PC – some families have been hit very hard financially, and many businesses likewise, so it may be better to ask people to support with things like getting online donation links set up.
Most PCs should be able to get their school to set up Google Meet slots that can be used for a PC meeting or sub-committee work – your children will be using such slots for things like music lessons and class discussions. You can run your AGM that way as long as you have a way for those who cannot for any reason (like lack of broadband) easily join in to make their points and have their say. You can postpone AGMs into the autumn as long as you tell people, and you can also run a “virtual” AGM but plan for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in the Autumn to provide a second chance to cover things that would normally only be dealt with in an AGM.
Highland Council Digital Hub for Schools: https://sites.google.com/millburnacademy.org.uk/highlanddigitalschoolshub/home
NPFS Newsletters: https://www.npfs.org.uk/news/
Connect Scotland news: https://www.connect.scot/news