Educators need to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of young people to bring them back into classrooms, a councillor has said.
Attendance rates at primary and secondary schools across Midlothian have fallen post Covid with more than one in ten secondary pupils not in class.
And a meeting of Midlothian Council’s cabinet was told incidents of ‘distress and dysregulated behaviour’ had made the last year challenging for teachers and staff.
Dysregulated behaviour is described as when a child or young person is unable to regulate their emotional response leading to them becoming overwhelmed and having an outburst or shutting down.
Michelle Strong, the council’s education chief operating officer, said the impact of missing school was recognised as serious and a priority for the service.
And she added the issues which were being seen in the county were also being seen across Scotland.
She told the meeting: “Some of our young people have been absent for a long time and the impact of that is on life chance so we are absolutely committed to try and bring about an improvement in relation to that.
“I have not shied away from the fact this year has been challenging in many of our schools. The level of distress and dysregulated behaviours is a national picture we are also seeing locally.
“It is about working with schools and wider partners to establish how we can better serve our learners, what is it that is causing the distress or dysregulated behaviour and then trying to address that.”
The meeting had been given a report which showed attendance in primary schools for the last year had fluctuated between 92 percent and 93 percent. In secondary schools it had fallen to 87 percent.
Councillor Ellen Scott, cabinet member for education, said: “Attendances and absences are a great concern to everyone.
“From conversations I’ve had with headteachers Covid allowed like-minded children to be together and this meant coming back to school for some groups of children was not going to be easy.
“There appears to be a marked disengagement from some of the learning and social activities but I think there has been a noticeable increase in anxiety and mental health concerns even in primary schools.
“Although Covid is a couple of years down the line we are finding in primary three and primary four some of these traumas are just coming out now for the children.
“There seems to be increased illness among children which is unexplained and unexpected and we are obviously seeing some difficult behaviours in schools.
“We have got to find a way to win the hearts and minds of our young people and convince them that education is the key to a better future.”
and I know our education officers are working hard to do it.”
Ms Strong said a strong focus had been placed on attendance with headteachers now having access to weekly dashboards which kept track of absences and drilled down into the information.
And she said work was going on with partners including child services to address issues with children who are not in school adding: “We recognise schools cannot tackle this alone.”
Craig Hoy, Conservative MSP for South Scotland.
Craig Hoy, Conservative MSP for South Scotland, has recently called on the Scottish Government to pass on the 75% business rates relief to hospitality and retail businesses in Midlothian as an incentive for them to grow and invest, using Penicuik as an example of a town that would benefit from rates relief during Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament.
This follows a call from the Scottish Retail Consortium for the Scottish Government to match the 75% business rates relief available in England and Wales, with a failure to match the rate being blamed for “damaging perceptions” of the Scotland’s economic competitiveness.
Hoy also asked the Scottish Government’s Minister for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy at Portfolio Questions to “explain in what way the imposition of this government’s disastrous Deposit Return Scheme on cafes, pubs and restaurants is in any way sensible rule making.”
The South Scotland MSP commented: “I raised the issue of the Deposit Return Scheme and need for business rates relief in Scotland to the Minister for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy because a thriving local high street is vital to the wellbeing of communities in towns such as Penicuik, Gorebridge and Newtongrange.
“The Scottish Government need to acknowledge the difficulties being faced by towns in Midlothian during the ongoing cost of living crisis, particularly given the associated costs for products and labour in Midlothian.”
Christine Grahame visited the Blood Bikes Scotland stall at Penicuik in the Park.
Thursday and Penicuik installation of the Hunter and his Lass was as usual a great success.
This was the culmination of a lovely evening with charming and skilled dancing, and the jokes of Damien from Sacred Heart who won the talent competition. These were delivered with confidence and aplomb so move over Kevin Bridges.
We were all still indoors at the Town Hall and I hope some time when finances allow we can have an external platform, although the new steps to the Town Hall are very posh and grand.
Friday I was back doing my regular Penicuik TESCO surgery which always has constituents at the ready and on Saturday back again to Penicuik in the Park.
The weather, which has had its ups and downs over the years was just fine, and I didn’t mind the stiff breeze though guy ropes were being really tested.
I stopped by many a stall but in particular at the Blood Bikes Scotland stall. This was their first visit to Penicuik in the Park and I am arranging I hope to have them bring their motor bikes to the Parliament. What they do is what it says they do, completely free of charge, transporting blood and other test samples from wards to laboratories.
They also deliver medication to patient’s homes and support GPs, District Nurses, Care Homes and Community Hospitals with the transport of small urgent items. Speed can be of the essence and the motorbikes can manoeuvre through heavy traffic but they also save the NHS being free. Good stuff all round. I look forward to seeing them one day soon at Parliament as I am sure my colleagues will learn a lot from them.