Katherine Sangster’s View – Bring hope to our young people

Wednesday April 14th 2021


Midlothian View Holyrood Challenge: This View has been written by Katherine Sangster, the Scottish Labour Party's and Scottish Co-operative Party's candidate in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale constituency for the Scottish Elections on Thursday May 6th 2021

Over the last year every child and every parent in the country have struggled with home learning. Yet whilst we have all been attempting to work and learn from home, it’s been more of a challenge for many of our young people.

It has been the poorest pupils who have been the worst affected. We are now faced with the real risk that as pupils now return to school that the attainment gap has widened further. Issues such as access to laptops, internet connection and a quiet study space) at home to work are all very real and they predominately effect the most deprived young people.

Reminders of just how unequal our education system remains are never hard to find. Recently research showed that the most deprived pupils in Scotland are just as likely to have one Higher when leaving school as their most affluent peers are to have five. From this position, it is easy to see why the poorer you are, the less likely you are to go to university. In almost every measure – numeracy, literacy, qualifications, post-school destination, future earnings and even the number of subjects you will study at school – is determined by your postcode.

A year ago, we came together as a country to save lives and to protect our NHS. We now need the same level of leadership for education. Above all else there is a moral imperative to ensure that the pandemic does not hamper the life chances of the next generation who have already sacrificed so much. Labour’s plan aims to deliver hope to our young people;

A Comeback Tutoring Programme

Tutoring programmes will be directed by teachers and based on their professional judgment. One such example of emerging good practice exists in East Lothian, where young people who struggled with learning during lockdown are benefitting from a tutoring initiative being launched by a partnership of East Lothian Council and Queen Margaret University. The project is supporting over 300 pupils in S4 – S6 across the county who have been identified as having the most to gain from this additional support, especially as they approach their National Qualifications. A Personal Comeback Plan for every pupil.

A Personal Comeback Plan

Every pupil in Scotland should have a Personal Comeback Plan developed and these should be combined with a mental health assessment for every single pupil. We must start by ensuring that a return to full-time learning for some does not worsen their mental health challenges.

A Resit Guarantee

Labour would establish a resit guarantee of a free place at college to take national qualifications should this be the chosen path of any pupil from the affected cohort. Those negatively impacted by the SQA Alternative Certification Model in 2020 – even after statistical moderation was scrapped – who had no right of appeal, will be given the chance to sit those qualifications again at college, with full student support. There are significant challenges emerging for Colleges and Universities with graduating classes being delayed and intakes likely to be deferred. We must ensure that no young person misses out as a result.

Supporting our workforce

This has been a time of extreme pressure: delivering online lessons, running hub schools and even learning new skills in technologies that were alien to many a few short months ago. Our teachers have done all of this and much more whilst also being carers, being community stalwarts and being home-schoolers themselves. In common with other key workers, they deserve not just thanks but also our commitment to support them in the future. Labour would implement a guaranteed completion opportunity for probationary teachers to ensure that they can gain registration and help to refresh our workforce.

Summer Comeback

Our first priority for our young people in Scotland’s Summer Comeback is that they enjoy themselves. They must be the beneficiaries of the opening up of the country. We will ring-fence resource for school trips to outdoor activity centres for all young people over the coming two years. A ‘Summer Comeback Pass’ for young people to provide free access to sport, transport, and cultural activities.

So as our children start to return to school let’s not talk about returning to normal because our “normal” education system was already not working for many of our young people. Let’s not talk about “catching up” but let’s bounce back with a renewed energy to make our education system work for everyone. Emerging from this crisis, we can ensure the time for change is now.

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