National tutoring scheme proposed as 'catch-up plan' for Scottish pupils by Conservatives

Significant investment, including the establishment of a ‘national tutoring plan’ and the recruitment of thousands of new teachers, have been proposed as a solution to the lost learning of Scottish pupils due to Covid-19 by the Scottish Conservatives.

Labelling the several months of lost full-time education faced by pupils in Scotland due to Covid-19, the party’s leader Douglas Ross said the situation facing children was a “national emergency”.

Schools were shut in Scotland in March last year until their return in August, and were closed again in January of this year, with a phased return likely to begin from February 22.

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However, there is no clear date for a full return of pupils to schools, with the earliest possible date being March.

Scottish Conservatives have called for a 'catch-up' plan for Scotland's school childrenScottish Conservatives have called for a 'catch-up' plan for Scotland's school children
Scottish Conservatives have called for a 'catch-up' plan for Scotland's school children
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The plans from the Scottish Conservatives for a “significant, long-term catch-up effort” include calls for a major research study into the impact school closure has had on attainment, particularly for those in lower socio-economic areas.

Criticising the scale of the current research by the Scottish Government into the impact of school closures on children, the Scottish Conservatives are suggesting “extensive national research” during the summer term to provide “evidence-based guidance” to schools to help assess the progress of pupils.

Alongside this should be a major recruitment drive of teachers with at least 3,000 teachers – at a cost of around £550 million – being recruited over the course of the next Parliament after the May elections.

The Scottish Conservatives also suggest a national tutoring service available to pupils and schools that were worst affected by the closure of schools.

Proposals, if taken up by the Scottish Government or if the Scottish Conservatives win in May, would see a national tutoring programme set-up with supply teachers, student teachers and other qualified tutors providing one-to-one and small group tutoring to pupils.

Ring-fenced funding and the ability to choose tutors from a list will be available to schools under the plans.

The final aspect of the plan would see children leaving primary school and moving to secondary school or those in the early years of primary school given additional support through the provision of early language intervention for the youngest pupils.

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Announcing the proposals, Mr Ross said the measures would avoid “creating a lost generation”.

He said: “We owe it to the younger generation to treat Scotland’s classroom crisis as a national emergency and that is why our catch-up plan is so important.

“Children have missed out on months of proper schooling and the SNP’s remote education has been poor and patchy. A significant long-term catch up effort is required to avoid creating a lost generation.

“The Scottish Government needs to invest in tutoring for the most disadvantaged, recruit 3,000 new teachers and conduct extensive and urgent research.”

“These measures would ensure that no child misses out on opportunities due to the pandemic and they are all enabled to catch up and excel. Times are far from normal. It is time to think creatively.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have invested over £200 million in education recovery since the start of the pandemic, which has led to an additional 1,400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed.

"The investment includes £45 million announced on 13 January to support the delivery of remote learning. This funding is sufficient to employ an additional 2,000 teachers during this financial year, and a further £25 million has been made available to local authorities to support this to the end of the school year.

“In 2021, we will invest a further £127 million in pupil equity funding to support learners from disadvantaged circumstances and a further £30 million for schools to cope with the ongoing effects of COVID.

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"This will help to ensure that schools and local authorities can work with pupils to target support where it is most needed, including tutoring if required.”

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