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Concerns raised about pandemic teaching

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
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Concerns raised about pandemic teaching

TEACHING at some Dumfries and Galloway schools failed to get pass marks during the pandemic.

That is the view of Dumfries Provost Tracey Little, pictured, who recently raised concerns about the standards of education at certain schools during the Covid crisis.

A report was produced for the Nithsdale Area Committee last week which highlighted how the council’s education department had adapted to many challenges at the height of the pandemic, including online remote learning and ensuring staff and pupil safety.

Referring to the report, Provost Tracey Little, who serves the Lochar ward, said: “I think that feels like a big self-pat on the back for us – and I don’t fully agree with it.

“I know that some schools were better than others. Depending on the school that children went to. In fact, it depended on the individual teacher as to how well this was dealt with.

“I know that some teachers turned up and were excellent, and quite inspiring for young people. Others didn’t even bother.

“I know that through schools in my ward, I also know it through personal experience.

“How do we address the discrepancies? How do we address some school children being very well supported by their teachers, but there were some other children – depending on the school and the teacher – where this just was not happening.

“I feel this is going to have had a serious effect on their education, especially the senior pupils coming up to exams.”

Jim Brown, the council’s head of education, said: “I understand the point you’re making that there is inherent variability in the system and when something hits us that could not have been predicted, there are response rates which mean that variability is felt in a different way.

“But I am very, very proud and pleased with the response of the education service and our teachers, and non-teaching staff, in that we continued to offer learning of what I say is a very high standard – as evidenced by the results.

“Within Dumfries and Galloway we kept the schools open as much as we could within the constraints of covid response.”

He added: “I think as a system, and as a directorate, we responded extremely well and I’m really pleased with the way our teachers delivered learning at very short notice in very difficult circumstances.”

Provost Little responded: “I’m not here to berate teachers or our education staff, I’m really not.

“I know a lot of our schools did amazing, and a lot of teachers did amazing.

“I’m just concerned about some cases where it didn’t happen.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Jim Dempster, chairman of Nithsdale Area Committee, asked about whether poor teaching performance would be investigated if serious concerns were highlighted.

He said: “If a particular issue was raised would that be looked at irrespective of the challenges times we currently live in?” Jim Brown replied: “All relevant policies and procedures were still used throughout the pandemic. Nothing was shelved because of particularly difficult times.”

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