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Teachers praised for keeping education going despite difficulties of lockdown

Teachers have been praised for their efforts in keeping pupils educated.
Teachers have been praised for their efforts in keeping pupils educated.

Hard-working teachers have been praised for keeping Scottish children’s education going in lockdown despite the difficulties and mental health strains of working remotely.

While youngsters are unable to physically attend school due to ongoing restrictions from the pandemic, teaching staff have been tasked with adapting to online-only classrooms.

In Aberdeenshire, the council has been speaking to school workers, parents and pupils to find out how they feel about their ongoing remote education.

At Westhill Academy, a survey by the council established that 99% of mums, dads and carers said they received regular contact with at least some of their children’s teachers.

The majority of children at the school also have adapted well, however 7% highlighted difficulties with following instructions online.

Youngsters at Westhill highlighted in the survey the variety of ways that teachers have been staying in touch, like live lessons, question and answer sessions, drop-in chats, video messages, audio voiceovers, and e-mails.

Locator of Westhill Academy.

Many children used the surveys to indicate how much they were missing seeing their friends and teachers in the flesh.

Westhill Academy head teacher Alison Reid said: “Feedback from young people as well as parents and carers is very important to us.

“We know there is no one-size-fits-all, and we are doing our absolute best to engage our school community in a variety of learning activities, offer tailored support, and make the best of the challenges we face together.

“I am so proud of the additional skills my staff and pupils have acquired.”

A model of a puffin created by S1 pupil Lewis at Westhill Academy.

By adapting and utilising technology, teachers have been able to continue teaching subjects that are more hands-on, like home economics and arts and crafts, with youngsters baking up treats in their home kitchens, and making models and artwork of Scottish wildlife, like puffins and squirrels.

Councils across the north and north-east of Scotland are also working hard to care for the mental health of teachers endeavouring to keep lessons going for pupils in lockdown.

Anne Paterson, who recently retired as chief education officer in Argyll and Bute in December, has recently been providing guidance to the Northern Alliance group, which works to improve education services in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Argyll and Bute.

She explained that the mental health of many teachers is under strain, as they navigate the world of remote learning and yearn for face-to-face teaching, and encouraged staff to make sure they take walks outside to clear their heads.

Mrs Paterson said: “We’ve moved to an online environment, which is quite difficult and different.

“A lot of teachers love building relationships with children and young people, so it’s a different kind of relationship now, which can take quite a lot of their own selves to do that.

“But you have to make sure your own well-being is topped-up, because you are giving in a different way.

“At the start of lockdown, we were all learning together and adapting to this new way of life, but now I think there’s an expectation on teachers that they should have the digital world all completely sorted.

“This expectation can make things difficult, and everyone has a fatigue with how things are just now.”

Mrs Paterson added: “I think all of our teacher colleagues should be really proud of what they are achieving just now. This is something none of us ever expected and it’s been new for us all, and there are lessons we can take from this to move education forward.”

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