'Urgent call' for army of tutors to help Scotland's children

A think tank has proposed an “urgent effort” to recruit an army of online tutors to help school pupils during the Coronavirus school shutdown in a bid to stop the attainment gap widening as a result of the crisis.

Tutors could be used to help plug the gap in education while children are out of school.

In a new paper - Learning at Home - the Commission on School Reform, an independent education group set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, says the national education agency Education Scotland has the capacity and experience to put such a programme together quickly.

The Commission, whose members include teachers and educationalists, warns that the current extended period of absence from school will widen the attainment gap unless action is taken. It warned that existing research evidence makes it clear that extended absences, such as summer holidays, disproportionately hamper the learning of disadvantaged children.

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Keir Bloomer, chair of the commission, said: “As John Swinney said last week, when quite rightly announcing the school closure, this is the first time our national education system has ever been completely shut down.

“This has significant implications for children’s education and for their social isolation, and evidence suggests that disadvantaged children will suffer the most.”

He added: “Parents will want to do their best but will need support, and the Commission is clear that Education Scotland can help by recruiting an army of online tutors from the ranks of retired teachers and teaching students to supplement the excellent online work being done by existing class teachers.

“We do not pretend that this is an easy task, but Education Scotland has the staff and skills to do it, and the Scottish Government has the ability to publicise it widely.

“Nobody can make this a normal time for a child’s education, but we can make it less harmful, and we must make it better for the vulnerable children who stand to suffer the most.”