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Coronavirus: First Minister faces calls for ‘urgent’ action over home learning uptake after release of Fife figures

St Columba's High School in Dunfermline.
St Columba's High School in Dunfermline.

Nicola Sturgeon faced calls for “urgent support” for pupils after Fife Council revealed most secondary students had not been engaging with home learning programmes during April.

Ms Sturgeon was challenged by Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alexander Stewart at First Minister’s Questions.

The Tory politician picked up on figures compiled by the local authority that showed participation rates of 42% for secondary school pupils and 77% for primary school pupils in the last week of April.

Engagement was lowest, 39%, in schools in the Auchmuty and Viewforth high school catchment areas in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy, respectively, and highest, 84%, in Dunfermline and St Columba’s high school catchments.

However, by the middle of May the proportion of pupils engaging had risen to 63% at secondary level and 81% at primary.

Mr Stewart paid tribute to teachers’ efforts but warned that “missing months” of schooling would set children back.

He asked Ms Sturgeon what “further, urgent support” the Scottish Government would provide to “reduce barriers” to pupil engagement.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged it was “an important issue” and added that no-one wanted to see youngsters miss out on their education.

She confirmed schools would be reopened in a “safe and phased” way on August 11.

“We will also look to increase the number of children who can access critical childcare through the hub system that has been in place throughout the crisis. During June, we also hope to provide transition support for pupils who are going into primary school or moving from primary school to secondary school,” she said.

The first minister said extra funding had been allocated to provide children from poorer areas with electronic devices to help their home learning.

She added: “Working with teachers and parents, we will pursue a range of other ways to ensure that home learning is a good and worthwhile experience for young people while it is still required.”

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