Jenny Gilruth MSP's column in the Glenrothes Gazette and East Fife Mail - 29 July 2020

Published date : 31 Jul 2020

Supporting our young people through the Covid-19 crisis

Before being elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2016, I taught Modern Studies. As a teacher, it is at this stage of the summer that I would begin preparing for the school year ahead. I’d be going in to school to check jotter supplies for the year ahead; reviewing timetabling arrangements, organising lesson plans - all the while thinking about my senior pupils who would be eagerly awaiting their exam results from the SQA.

Four years later, our schools, teachers, and young people are preparing for a return to school - or life beyond school -  in a world markedly changed by Covid-19.

Tomorrow (Thursday 30 July) First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will announce the Scottish Government’s final decision on the re-opening of schools.

As Fife Council gears up for schools reopening next month, I’ve welcomed the Education Secretary’s move to allocate £50 million to recruit extra teachers and support staff. A further £20 million is also being allocated to local authorities to help them with new health protection measures, enhanced cleaning, and school transport.

Clear and comprehensive guidance for the new term is being carefully worked on by the government’s Education Recovery Group. The guidance will help councils and headteachers to make sure children can return to a safe environment.

In Scotland, we have the most progressive support package for families anywhere in the UK. As part of this, I’m encouraging all eligible parents and carers in my constituency to apply for free school meals and clothing grants of £100 per child through Fife Council before schools return.

Students will receive their SQA results next Tuesday, 4 August. Exams were cancelled this year so an alternative model is being used to award grades as fairly and reliably as possible using teacher estimates and moderation by schools. 

For those planning to go on to college or university, the First Minister has given a reassurance that tuition fees will not be introduced for Scottish students as a result of coronavirus. The Scottish Government has been working with institutions to help them prepare for safe, phased returns for their campuses so students can continue to access a world class higher education experience. 

College or university isn’t for everyone, so Modern Apprenticeship opportunities are available for those who want to learn on the job. In response to the economic impacts of Covid-19, particularly on unemployment, the Scottish Government has set aside £50 million to help young people get into work through a job guarantee scheme. 

Just as I did as a teacher, as a local MSP my thoughts are with my young constituents and their families who await their results next week. I hope everyone gets the grades they are expecting. Remember, should you do better or less well than expected, the Skills Development Scotland Exam Results Helpline will be open from 8 am on results day. The number to call is 0808 100 8000.

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