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Phased return to school will help Dundee pupils gain confidence despite limited class time, education chiefs claim

Pupils will be able to reconnect on their return to school.
Pupils will be able to reconnect on their return to school.

A phased return to school will allow pupils to gain confidence after three months of learning at home, education chiefs in Dundee have said.

Many pupils will only have a few hours in school until Easter as a gradual return begins on Monday.

Physical distancing rules mean capacity has been slashed at city schools and children will have to continue with remote learning for the majority of the 14-day period.

Depending on individual school layouts, some classes will be divided into three groups with approximately 10 pupils to a classroom at one time.

Councillor Stewart Hunter, who has children in S1 and S6 at a city secondary school, said he hoped the gradual return would ease the concerns of pupils who had been out of school since December.

Councillor Stewart Hunter.

His daughter, an S1 pupil, missed the last term of primary before transitioning to secondary.

The education convener said: “As a parent I’d love her to be back full time from next week but I also understand why that isn’t practical.

“My daughter has been out of school for three months and that’s difficult and she’ll be going back to a school where she’s only had a couple of terms.

“That’s a huge thing for young people so although we’d prefer to have them in all of the time, just getting them used to being back in school for a taster before they go back for longer after the Easter holiday, I don’t think is a bad thing.”

Remote learning provision

Schools have been battling many logistical challenges to reopening schools, including juggling remote learning as teachers return to in-class teaching.

The provision of remote learning is expected to be significantly impacted following the return.

Audrey May, head of education at Dundee City Council, admitted it is a “possibility” that engagement levels could drop as schools cut back on live lessons.

Audrey May.

However she remains confident school staff will be able to stop young people from slipping through the net.

“If some people drift a bit I’m confident that our schools will get back in touch with these young people because of the targets they’ve put in place to monitor that remote engagement.

“It’s a possibility but I don’t think it’s something we need to worry about too much because of the quality of what’s being offered and the systems in place to make sure no one slips through the net.”

Physical distancing challenges

However, a full return is impossible with the two-metre physical distancing requirement which has created challenges for school staff who are finalising reopening plans.

Mr Hunter added: “It’s caused a few difficulties for schools. That’s probably why for parents they’re not going to see a full return, certainly for S1-S3, that’d we’d all like to see.”

He continued: “What we’re trying to do is just be open and upfront about the challenges we’re facing about trying to get the kids back.

“Getting the whole of secondary back is important but for the S4 to S6s who are facing assessments over the coming months that’s really important as well.

“They’re the ones that we want to make sure that we get this absolutely right for.”

The staff we’ve got in our schools across the city are amazing because although they’ll find it difficult and challenging and ever changing, they still make it happen and they still find a way.”

Audrey May, head of education.

But school staff have risen to the challenges they faced throughout the pandemic.

Ms May said: “The staff we’ve got in our schools across the city are amazing because although they’ll find it difficult and challenging and ever changing, they still make it happen and they still find a way.

“The issues around two-metre physical distancing is really what’s presented the biggest challenge to our secondary schools.

She added: “We want all of our young people to have had an experience of school before the Easter holidays but that might be limited, such as half days or thirds of a day.”

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