Councillors in Orkney have backed proposals for a £390,000 study support programme that would address the disruption caused by the Covid-19.
The programme would aim to support S4, 5, and 6 secondary school pupils who missed out on the normal learning experience due to the pandemic. It would see the creation of four temporary full-time study support teacher posts.
The study support teachers would work across secondary schools’ departments to support pupils within school hours. They would keep an eye on pupils’ engagement with supported study activities and overall wellbeing, in relation to study.
They would also deliver sessions during the Easter break and run evening sessions in schools and community halls so pupils can access online resources.
The programme would run for the remainder of the current school year and the whole of the next one or 18 months in total. The main focus would be to help students prepare for, and succeed, in their exams.
During a special meeting of Orkney council’s education, leisure, and housing committee on Thursday, councillors unanimously backed the proposals.
Pupils have missed out on the full education experience
Graham Bevan, the council’s service manager for secondary and tertiary education said: “Covid has inhibited so much of what young people would have expected in their senior phase. They’ve had to learn from home, be tutored online, and access online materials. That has inevitably impacted on many of their opportunities to succeed in the way we would have normally expected.”
While schools and staff are now, much more confident in using online systems, problems remain with bandwidth and connectivity.
There would be money in the programme’s budget to hire transport for pupils who need to travel to school for broadband services. There would also be connectivity packages for pupils who don’t have the bandwidth available at home.
Councillor Leslie Manson said he knows the idea of giving pupils more time in school isn’t always welcomed. He asked what would happen if the support teachers turned out to be “underutilised”.
Mr Bevan told him that the council is “struggling desperately” to find the supply teachers to cover for absent teachers. Having supply teachers available to step in would be one of the ways the programme’s staff would be used.
Council leader, James Stockan, asked: “Is this enough?”
‘There’s a limit to what you can do with young people in a day’
Mr Bevan replied: “We’ve been realistic. There’s a limit to what you can do with young people in a day and during an easter study programme. The number of teachers we’ve got in our secondary sector, and the flexibility we’ve got when we have absenteeism, is pretty rock bottom.
“If we can do something like this, we’ve got a better chance of attracting teachers to come up here to support us. We could have had more, but I think this is a realistic ask.
The plan to establish the study support programme will now go to full council for ratification.
The £130,000 needed to run the programme for the remaining school year can be met using existing council resources. A recommendation also goes on to the policy and resources committee for £260,000 to be given to cover the next school year.