Education recovery plans to support children most likely to have fallen behind in learning during lockdown have been mapped out.
Closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic is reckoned to have slowed progress being made in closing the attainment gap between the rich and poor, with those in more deprived areas less able to engage with home learning.
Both Dundee City Council and Fife Council have set out their intention to target help for disadvantaged youngsters worst affected by the loss of weeks of direct teaching.
Fife reported a “significant closing” of the attainment gap during the earlier part of 2019-20 in some areas in secondary schools, but that progress has slowed in literacy and numeracy in primary schools and at National 5s level.
There was also evidence of “increasing child poverty in the already poorest neighbourhoods”, the local authority said.
Liberal Democrat education spokesman for the region, Councillor James Calder, said: “It is worrying to see the slowing of the reduction of the attainment gap in Fife in many areas.
“We need to ensure that all pupils have the same opportunities and unfortunately this gap in opportunity still remains locally.”
Mr Calder said he was informed that some of the gap was down to pupils not engaging with learning or having attendance issues and he added: “Fife Council must redouble its efforts with these pupils and work to ensure that they all get the same chances in life.”
In a report to councillors, Fife Council’s education and children’s services executive director Carrie Lindsay said part of the focus of an action plan drawn up was closing the attainment gap for children living in socially disadvantaged areas.
She said: “Key challenges, like closing the equity gap in outcomes for children living in poverty, remain as important as ever, if not more so.”
School closures and barriers to engagement in home learning for some will have slowed or halted their progress, particularly for the most vulnerable families, the plan states.
A review of resource allocation for schools and early learning centres is to be conducted to ensure support where it is most needed and IT devices and connectivity solutions funded by the Scottish Government will go to those with no or limited internet access for home learning.
Dundee councillors will be told on Monday of work to reduce the attainment gap in the city’s schools.
They will be told of “improving trends” but that the impact of coronavirus and cancellation of exams will make it difficult to draw comparisons with previous years.
Children and families services convener Councillor Stewart Hunter said: “The impact of the pandemic was felt across all our schools, but those young people who are the focus of our attainment challenge efforts would have been most disadvantaged.
“That is why schools and the council’s children and families services are redoubling their efforts to continue and build on the progress that was being made before the pandemic.”
“We want to improve outcomes for these children and young people, but there are no quick fixes or easy solutions.”
A report to Dundee’s children and families’ services committee outlines how increased access to the online Sumdog games resource is helping primary school children improve numeracy skills and how learning support funding is being provided to secondary schools for looked after and care experienced young people.