Categories
Business Carers Children Education

Increased Support for Childminders

Payments will support business sustainability.

Grants of £750 are being paid to all registered childminders in Scotland in order to secure the sustainability of their businesses.

Funding of more than £3.2 million has been made available to ensure that all childminders registered with the Care Inspectorate will receive the flat-rate payment.

While up to £1 million had been planned for need-assessed grants, additional resource has been invested to ensure payments can be made to all registered childminders. This will simplify and speed up the process, ensuring the money reaches those that need it as quickly as possible.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“Childminders are a vital and valued part of our childcare sector, providing high quality care and learning in a safe and nurturing environment.

“Just as many other childcare providers have experienced financial pressures as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions that have been placed on them, childminders too have raised genuine concern about the future sustainability of their businesses.

“I’m pleased that we have been able to increase the funding available to support the profession, and by simplifying the process we will be able to get the funds to those who need them more quickly.”

Background

Information about support for the childcare sector

Childminding Action Plan

Categories
Business Education Mental Health

Non-domestic Rates Relief Extended

Extra money for mental health, education and tackling poverty.

Retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses will pay no rates during 2021-22 under proposals outlined today.

It is one of a series of measures proposed by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes following confirmation of a further £1.1 billion of consequential funding arising from UK Government coronavirus (COVID-19) spending.

The move builds on the three month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.

Newspapers will also continue to benefit from 100% relief for a further 12 months, while charitable rates relief will not be removed from mainstream independent schools until 1 April 2022 due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Other extra spending in 2021-22 arising from the latest consequentials includes:

  • £120 million for mental health
  • £120 million for affordable housing
  • £100 million to support people on low incomes
  • £60 million for schools to help pupils catch-up on missed education
  • £60 million for NHS recovery
  • £45 million for heat decarbonisation, energy efficiency and fuel poverty
  • £21.5 million for Scottish Enterprise

Separately, local authorities will receive an extra £275 million in the current financial year to address COVID-19 pressures, while a further £40 million is being made available to support the safe reopening of schools.

Ms Forbes said:

“When I presented our budget last month I guaranteed to extend non-domestic rates relief further if I was given the necessary resources. I can now deliver on that promise, providing the UK Budget in March delivers the funding we require.

“The other measures I am proposing today, including further support for hospitals, schools and local government and measures to tackle climate change, build on our priorities to ensure a robust recovery for our economy and public services.

“This welcome additional consequential funding was confirmed to us yesterday and I wanted give early notice to parliament and provide clarity to businesses.

“We are still in the throes of a national emergency and it is important Parliament works together to respond. I will continue to work with all parties to help deliver a budget for the nation fit for these times.”

Background

A copy of the Finance Secretary’s Budget Update statement to the Scottish Parliament is available online.

Last month’s Scottish Budget 2021-22 estimated how much consequential funding would flow from the delayed UK Budget on 3 March, with £500 million assumed to be provided.

Categories
Children Community Safety Coronavirus Education Health Public Health

New Measures to Tackle Virus

Supervised quarantine and expansion of testing as gradual schools return announced.

A series of new measures aimed at driving down coronavirus (COVID-19) rates in Scotland have been announced.

Current restrictions, including the ‘stay-at-home’ requirement, are set to remain in place until at least the end of February and schools will continue to be closed to most children for the rest of this month.

Nurseries and Primaries 1 to 3 are, however, now scheduled to return full-time on 22 February, subject to final confirmation two weeks from now that sufficient progress in tackling the virus has been achieved.

In an update to Parliament the First Minister confirmed that a managed quarantine system for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland regardless of which country they have come from will be introduced as soon as practicably possible.

In addition to guarding against the increased importation of new cases, access to testing to find cases and interrupt transmission already taking place in Scotland will be stepped up:

  • from the middle of February, routine testing of healthcare workers will be expanded to cover patient-facing primary care workers such as GPs, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists, as will testing for all patient-facing staff who work in hospices
  • from later this month, regular testing will be offered to support the return to schools and nurseries. Senior phase secondary school students, and all staff in primary, secondary and special schools, including school-based ELC staff, will be able to benefit from routine at-home testing two times a week
  • certain workplaces where the risk of transmission is greater and which provide essential or critical services, such as those within the food processing and distribution sectors and staff within emergency service control rooms, will also be supported to introduce routine workforce testing
  • targeted community testing will continue to be expanded – so that testing is available to people locally, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms
  • from mid-February tests will also be offered to all close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-enabling Test and Protect teams to identify their contacts and track, and break further, chains of transmission

In order to promote people’s ability to self-isolate when necessary, financial support will be significantly expanded to include all workers earning the Real Living Wage or less, as well as those in receipt of a council tax reduction because of low income. The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant will also be extended to people who cannot work because someone they have caring responsibilities for is asked to self-isolate.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“As levels of the virus continue to fall in Scotland, it becomes ever more important that we stop the virus from being imported again. The threat of new variants is real and we must be ever-more vigilant.

“That is why we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.

“We want to work with the UK Government to avoid travellers sidestepping restrictions and arriving in other parts of the UK before travelling to Scotland, however the most effective approach to prevent this and to stop new variants being imported is for the UK Government to introduce a compulsory quarantine for anyone travelling into the UK from overseas.

“Since we still have work to do these measures will not be introduced this week and more detail will follow shortly.

“We believe that targeted community testing can play a particularly valuable role in communities where prevalence is starting to rise rapidly which is why we have expanded our testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission.

“Lockdown is starting to slow down the virus. But we also need to pick up the pace in our vaccination programme. We are doing that and will accelerate the programme further over the next fortnight – providing that we have sufficient supplies of the vaccine – as we work towards being able to vaccinate 400,000 people a week by the end of the month. We are making rapid progress in protecting those who are most at risk from COVID-19.”

On schooling, the First Minister added:

“I am acutely aware of the pressure school closures is putting on working parents and on family life more generally.

“Our room for manoeuvre, given the current state of the pandemic, is limited. But the government is determined to use every inch of headroom we have to get children back to school.

“Based on the advice of our expert advisers, if we all agree to abide with the lockdown restrictions for a bit longer so that our progress in suppressing the virus continues, we can begin a phased, albeit gradual, return to school from 22 February.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): stay at home guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Community testing schemes have already been agreed across seven local authorities, within the health board areas of Fife, Grampian and Ayrshire and Arran, with agreed community testing proposals across the majority of mainland Local Authority areas expected to be agreed by the end of the week.

Categories
Children Coronavirus Education Health Mental Health

Physical and Emotional Welfare of Children

COVID support for teachers.

Hundreds of teachers who are new in post, or working in pastoral or child protection roles, are to be offered support to manage the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland have partnered with social enterprise organisation KnowYouMore who will provide coaches for the new online one-to-one sessions. Sessions are already being offered to headteachers as part of a support package funded by the Scottish Government in 2020.

The new programme now includes support for more than 500 teachers in their first four years of post-probation to discuss any personal or professional pressures they are facing as a result of delivering remote learning.

Education Secretary John Swinney, said:

“COVID-19 has placed unprecedented strain on school staff and none more so than those who have pastoral care and child protection responsibilities ensuring the emotional welfare of our children and young people as we recover from the pandemic.

“The teacher support package I announced last year will complement the existing professional training and support already taking place for staff in schools across Scotland. Teachers need to be part of a supportive online community and have the space to stop and think about issues that are causing concern.”

Gayle Gorman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Education Scotland Chief Executive, said:

“Education Scotland is fully committed to ensuring the education workforce feel supported and I’m delighted this next phase of our coaching and mentoring offer is available more widely.

“We have found that it really benefits teachers to know there is someone with a listening ear who are there for them. Our 1:1 coaching and mentoring sessions for Headteachers have proved a really popular way of supporting their wellbeing and now the offer is also open to post probation teachers, teachers new to role and those with pastoral responsibilities. I would encourage more practitioners to sign up.”

Ken Muir, Chief Executive, of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said:

“GTC Scotland is pleased to be working with our partners in education to deliver this important coaching to support hard-pressed teachers who are doing all they can to maintain quality learning in challenging circumstances. In addition to this coaching, GTC Scotland itself has invested heavily in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals and will continue to do so throughout the pandemic.”

Background

In September, 2020, the Scottish Government offered school staff new support as part of a £1.5 million funding package to help manage additional pressures as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Categories
Coronavirus Education Social Security Universities

Support for Students in Hardship

£30 million of additional funding.

Students experiencing hardship as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be supported by £20 million of Scottish Government funding.

A further £10 million has also been allocated to universities and colleges for income lost in providing rent rebates.

To complement the additional £30 million, the Scottish Funding Council is also repurposing £5 million of student support funding towards discretionary funding for FE students in the college sector.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“The impact of the pandemic on students has been significant. Not only has there been disruption to their education, we know that many students face financial difficulties with accommodation, associated costs or challenges in getting jobs. This additional £20 million will help to alleviate the financial pressure and stress facing many of our students.

“We are also supporting institutions, many of which have lost revenue by giving students rent refunds or rebates, with an additional £10 million.

“This announcement builds on the £37 million package of support the Scottish Government has already provided to support students during the pandemic.”

Matt Crilly, President of NUS Scotland, said:

“NUS Scotland welcomes this crucial support from the Scottish Government at a time when students are struggling. We know many of the traditional sources of student income have been decimated during the pandemic, so it is a relief to know there will be additional funding for those experiencing hardship.

“This support is essential in helping Scotland uphold its commitment to fair access to education. While Scotland has made important advances in recent years towards widening access to further and higher education, the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and threatens to erode this progress. This funding helps ensure we are not only supporting students from all backgrounds into education, but also helping them stay in education.”

Shona Struthers, chief executive officer of Colleges Scotland, said:

“We welcome any additional funding to support college students across Scotland at this incredibly difficult time. Many of our students are learning from home and with additional financial hardship caused by the pandemic – we are sure that the much-needed additional funds from Scottish Government will prove beneficial to students during this lockdown period. Colleges Scotland will work on behalf of the sector to highlight ongoing challenges.”

Background

Details on how this £20 million assistance for students will be distributed will be confirmed shortly.

More information on the support available for students is available online.

Categories
Children Coronavirus Education

Extra Remote Learning Funding for Schools

More teachers, digital devices and support for families.

A new package of £45 million will help local authorities to provide support to schools and families as they deal with the challenges of remote learning during lockdown, Education Secretary John Swinney confirmed today.

Councils may use the funding – sufficient to fund 2,000 additional teachers – for purposes including recruitment of additional staff, additional digital devices or to provide additional family support. This is on top of £160 million already committed for education recovery since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total additional support provided to more than £200 million since the start of the pandemic. Private and third sector day care of children settings will also receive almost £4 million in temporary financial support.

Mr Swinney has also asked HM Inspectors of Education to commence with a national review of the quality and effectiveness of remote learning across the country with the first report published next Friday, 22 January.

We will ensure all appropriate mitigations are in place to support a safe return including enhancing our testing programme in schools. We expect that pilots of two different testing models – one using in-school testing with Lateral Flow Devices (LFD), and another involving at-home testing using PCR tests – will begin in a small number of schools from next week.

Mr Swinney said:

“I appreciate only too well the additional burden home learning is placing on many of our children and their families. After the last period of school building closures we commissioned an Equity Audit, published today, to better understand the impact on children’s learning and health and wellbeing, particularly disadvantaged pupils.

“Since the start of the pandemic our funding has led to an additional 1,400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed. The new funding can be used to recruit further staff – which might include teachers, classroom assistants, administrative staff, home/school link workers or other support workers – as well as the resources that families and schools need to support home learning, including additional digital devices where there is any remaining unmet need, and other home learning resources.

“The quality and effectiveness of remote learning across the country will be reviewed by HM Inspectors of Education. A programme of ‘national overviews’, will commence immediately and last for the duration of remote learning. These will seek to identify what is working well and where further improvement is required. These overviews will be published weekly to ensure they are available for everyone to learn and build from, starting week ending 22 January.

“I am aware that remaining open for very small numbers of children creates pressure for some childcare providers, and I can therefore confirm we will make temporary financial support of up to £3.8 million available for each four week period of restrictions to day care of children providers and childminding settings caring for 12 or more children who remain open for vulnerable and keyworker children during these restrictions. We will confirm details as soon as possible.

“If the evidence tells us we can get some pupils back safely, we will do that, and we will ensure the package of mitigations in schools remains robust and tailored to the circumstances we face. As part of that work, we expect that pilots of two different testing models – one using in-school testing with Lateral Flow Devices, and another involving at-home testing using PCR tests – will begin in a small number of schools from next week, helping to inform options for wider rollout.

“I am grateful to our hardworking, dedicated teaching professionals for their intense work to plan, organise and deliver learning. The virus will be beaten, and schools will return fully to intensify our efforts to achieve excellence and equity for all of Scotland’s children.”

Background

Advice and support for parents and carers is available at the Parent Club.

The Equity Audit is available here.

Further information on the support for private and third sector childcare providers is available here.

Categories
Children Coronavirus Education Public Health

Remote Learning For Schools

Guidance for teachers and families published.

Guidance for teachers and families to support remote learning in schools has been published by Education Scotland.

It has been created in partnership through the Education Recovery Group and sets out a shared understanding of the key principles of remote learning, the support and resources available for teachers and families and what children and young people are entitled to.

This is in addition to remote learning guidance already produced by local authorities for schools to plan and prepare.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“Our national e-learning offer, launched in June 2020, is already strengthening the remote and e-learning option available to schools. All authorities and schools in Scotland are already able to access to live, recorded and supported learning resources, while more than 50,000 devices such as laptops have been distributed to children and young people to help with remote learning.

“I am grateful for the huge amount of work that has already been done to prepare for next week and more is being done in order to continuously improve the national remote learning offer. This guidance sets out a range of entitlements for children and young people during the period of remote learning. It highlights the importance of achieving an appropriate balance of live learning and independent activity and an entitlement to ongoing dialogue, reflection and feedback with teachers.”

Background

Read the guidance.

Categories
Children Education Health

SNP Announce Free School Meals For All Primary School Pupils

“Progressive vision to tackle poverty in the face of Tory cuts”

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals at the SNP annual conference this weekend.

The SNP previously extended eligibility for a free school lunch to all P1 to P3 pupils while P4 to P7 pupils are eligible based on a range of income and benefits criteria.

Now, in the face of predictions that Westminster cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion – estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure – will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils from August 2022.

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensured that children in Dundee would continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.

“But we will not stop there. If the SNP is re-elected in May, every single primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round.

“And unlike the Tories, we didn’t have to be publicly shamed and condemned into choosing to feed hungry children – that is the basic duty of any government.

“This ambitious expansion of the free school meals scheme is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.

“That progressive vision, underpinned by human rights, equality and wellbeing, is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”

Categories
Coronavirus Education Health Universities

Guidance for Students Returning Home

Plans for mass testing of asymptomatic students.

Students travelling home at the end of term will be able to take voluntary coronavirus (COVID-19) tests through their college or university from next Monday.

As part of a number of measures to support a safe return home, students are also being asked to take extra care in the period leading up their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping. This is to minimise the number of contacts they have with others and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.

Updated guidance has now been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Richard Lochhead said:

“Our priority is to ensure that students who wish to go home at the end of term can do so while keeping themselves, their families, friends and communities safe.

“We are asking that students continue living at their term-time accommodation for now and minimise any opportunity to pick up the virus by limiting themselves to only essential reasons to mix with others.

“Voluntary testing will also be available from next Monday. This is part of a huge UK-wide effort by colleges and universities to test asymptomatic students before they leave their term-time accommodation.

“I want to thank all students for their tremendous resilience and patience this academic year and I know that they will continue to do all they can to stay safe and ensure a happy reunion with their loved ones.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said:

“The introduction of mass testing for students and staggered departure dates are warmly welcome and will be a relief to many students and families across Scotland allowing students to return home safely this winter.

“But we now have our part to play and so I’d strongly encourage any student moving household over the holidays to plan ahead and get tested if you can.”

Professor Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“Students who intend to return home this Christmas should take the test for people without symptoms as soon as possible. The test is quick and free and the results are available fast. The tests are a helpful extra step to take to keep your family and friends and the wider community safe from COVID-19 this Christmas. A double negative result will give you more confidence to travel home but it doesn’t change the need to practise personal safety measures; wear a face covering, avoid crowds, keep two metres distance and wash your hands regularly to minimise your risk.

“This has been a challenging term for students and I want to thank them for their continued vigilance against the virus. I also want to put on record my thanks and admiration for the staff involved in making these testing centres a reality as well as those who will be working in them. To have these testing centres open so quickly is a testament to our dedicated staff as well as the partnership approach across colleges and universities to ensure that as many students as possible get tested.”

Background

Universities and colleges will be utilising lateral flow devices (LFDs) – a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can produce rapid results within half an hour at the location of the test.

Students will be offered two LFD tests, spaced three days apart which are bookable through their college or university. Those receiving two negative results will be encouraged to safely return home as soon as is practical after the second result.

If either of the lateral flow tests returns a positive result, the student will be asked to self-isolate and undertake a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the usual NHS Test & Protect channels.

Colleges and universities will have specific information for students on the care and support that will be available for those who are either not returning home, or who are having to self-isolate.

FAQ on the student testing programme and returning home

Guidance on how to travel safely

Categories
Education

42 Extra Teachers In Dundee Following SNP Funding Boost

A further 42 new teachers and support staff recruited in the Dundee City council area since the summer..

Local MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed news that 1,250 new teachers, and 155 support staff, have been recruited in schools across Scotland in recent months.

The SNP Government pledged £80 million of support this summer to help local authorities’ recruitment for the safe re-opening of schools.

Councils across Scotland indicate that an estimated further 200 teachers are also in the pipeline with 100 extra support staff also expected to follow.

Last month, figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) showed that the number of newly-qualified teachers going straight into employment has risen by nearly 30% under the SNP’s leadership.

Analysis also revealed that the number of teachers in Scotland under the age of 45 has risen to 61.5% of the workforce as of 2019. In 2009, the majority of teachers were over 45.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Dundee City West Constituency, Joe FitzPatrick said:

“In the middle of a global pandemic, it’s absolutely vital that local authorities are fully supported to ensure that our schools remain safe for pupils, teachers and staff.

“Thanks to significant investment from the SNP Government this summer, we now have hundreds of extra teachers and staff in our schools to support their safe re-opening.

“These additional teachers and support staff will not only bring much needed resilience to Scotland’s education system, but they will help compensate for the loss of learning suffered by pupils during lockdown.

“I want to express my appreciation once again for our amazing teachers, and wider schools workforce, right here in Dundee, who are helping to ensure our young people continue to get the education they deserve during these tough times.”

Categories
Children Education

Majority Of Children Receiving Expanded ELC

Expansion progress report published.

The majority of eligible children are now receiving the full 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) and more than 80% are receiving more than 600 hours.

Latest data from the Improvement Service, compiled in August, shows that more than 56,000 children (61 per cent of those eligible) are already receiving 1,140 hours of funded ELC, despite the statutory expansion being paused in April to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, 87% of the additional staff forecast to be required for the expansion are now in place.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“I’m pleased to see that despite the impact of the pandemic, the majority of children are getting the full 1,140 hours of funded, high quality childcare – almost doubling what was previously provided.

“Overall, more than 93,000 children are benefitting from the high quality care and learning provided by our fantastic ELC practitioners. This is a great achievement by all involved.

“The pandemic has had an obvious impact on construction and recruitment plans across the country, however local authorities are making good progress to get back on track and we will continue to support them to do so.

“We have always been clear that the suspension of the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours is a pause, not a stop. We will agree a new delivery date with local government before the end of this year and continue to work with partners to deliver this transformational policy.”

COSLA’s Education and Young Person Spokesperson Councillor Stephen McCabe said:

“Local Government’s main concern throughout this whole pandemic and indeed always is to put the needs of our children and young people first. We took the difficult decision jointly with the Scottish Government to pause implementation of the 1140 hours ELC expansion as the pandemic disrupted plans. We are working closely with the Scottish Government to agree a timeline to reinstate the national duty for 1140 .

“Despite the challenges in construction projects and recruitment issues Councils have worked hard to create additional places and a number of Councils are already offering 1140 hours of funded provision, with more coming online in the months ahead.”

Background

The report can be found at Early Learning and Childcare Expansion Delivery Progress Report .

Data returned by local authorities indicates that 93,438 children were accessing funded ELC as of the end of August 2020.

Of these, 74,870 children (80%) were accessing more than the current statutory entitlement of 600 hours, and 56,697 children (61%) were accessing 1140 hours funded ELC.

Constituents can check whether they are eligible and apply online at mygov.scot/benefits/.

Categories
Coronavirus Education Social Security

Funding For Those Who Need It Most

Over £30 million to tackle financial insecurity.

A £30 million package of funding is being made available to local authorities to support people facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), including money to provide free school meals over the school holidays.

Local authorities will be given flexibility to use £20 million, previously held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support people in their communities.

A further £10 million has been made available so councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“No one should be struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on, or stay warm at home in the midst of this pandemic. With continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the furlough scheme being scaled back we are doing all we can to ensure the right support gets to people at the right time in the right way.

“We know a healthy meal during the school day helps children to learn – but right now it’s an essential to support families at such a difficult time. This money will offer nutritious free meals for children or allow families to get food they desperately need.

“Those experiencing financial hardship can currently apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and seek advice on which benefits they can receive. However, this will not be suitable for everyone: some people are not eligible for crisis grants or already receive the full benefits they are entitled to, while others may need immediate support with food and essentials.

“We are giving local authorities greater flexibility over funding held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support local action and address people’s needs. This may include supplementing local budgets for the Scottish Welfare Fund to meet demand, providing financial support to tackle food insecurity or to meet fuel costs, or boosting local funding for Discretionary Housing Payments.

“Additionally we are making further resource available to continue the provision of Free School Meals over forthcoming holidays, including Easter.”

Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Bill Scott, said:

“We welcome this much needed additional help for low income families and individuals. The funding for Free School Meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard pressed parents.

“We would urge local authorities to use the flexibility given to them by Scottish Government to ensure that every penny of extra help available gets to those who need it most.”

COSLA’s spokesperson for Resources Councillor Gail Macgregor, and spokesperson for Community Wellbeing Councillor Kelly Parry said:

“The impacts of the virus have not been felt equally across society and we welcome this funding which can be used flexibly by councils, enabling them to provide more support for those who need it most in our communities.

“Local authorities will deploy it in ways that best meets local circumstance, to provide the most effective support to those experiencing financial hardship, for example through grants, addressing food insecurity, or support for fuel costs. We know that as winter arrives and the furlough scheme draws to a close unfortunately more adults and children are likely to need assistance to ensure they are fed and warm. Local Government is the anchor in our communities and is able to provide advice, support and assistance to those that need it.”

Background

On 18 March the Communities Secretary announced £350 million of funding to support communities at risk as a result of the pandemic.

This included a £45 million boost to the Scottish Welfare Fund, of which £22 million was allocated immediately to local authorities, increasing the available budget for awards in 2020-21 to £57.5 million. A further £3 million has been committed as an increase to the budget available for Discretionary Housing Payments.

By enabling local authorities to be more flexible in the way they use this remaining £20 million we are ensuring that they can support those with No Recourse to Public Funds who are destitute and do not have access to mainstream benefits.

The Scottish Government provided local authorities with additional resource to provide Free School Meals over the Easter and the summer holidays. By the end of the summer period 156,000 children were benefitting from this support, having peaked at around 175,000 prior to summer, providing vital support to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Local authorities who continued Free School Meal provision over October holidays will be reimbursed through this funding package.

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Results Day

138,000 learners receive their results.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has congratulated all learners who have today received their results.

With exams cancelled for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, young people are receiving qualifications based on a combination of teacher judgment and national moderation by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which show that:

The National 5 pass rate was 81.1%
The Higher pass rate was 78.9%
The Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%

In 2019:

The National 5 pass rate was 78.2%
The Higher pass rate was 74.8%
The Advanced Higher pass rate was 79.4%


Deputy First Minister John Swinney today met senior pupils at Stonelaw High School in South Lanarkshire to discuss their results and how they dealt with the challenge of learning during lockdown. He also took part in a video call on digital learning platform e-Sgoil with pupils from around Scotland to congratulate them on their results.

Mr Swinney said:

“In the face of an incredibly tough few months for pupils and teachers, we can today celebrate the achievements of all learners. Young people have received awards that recognise their hard work and allow them to move onto the next stage in their lives.

“Scottish exams have never before been cancelled. I am immensely grateful to all teachers and lecturers who worked incredibly hard to assess achievement this year, and to the SQA for developing the certification model – without either, young people could not have received qualifications.

“There was a rise in pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. While comparisons with previous years need to be considered carefully, given the disruption to learning this year this is a good set of results for our learners. I am pleased to see the number of skills based awards, that teach vital knowledge and experience valued by employers, rise by 18% to 64,221.

“This year’s results also show there has been a narrowing of the attainment gap at grades A-C between the most and least disadvantaged young people, which is now narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than last year, or indeed the average for the last four years.

“All exam systems rely on an essential process known as moderation to uphold standards. This ensures an A grade is the same in every part of the country, making the system fair for everyone, and across all years. As the national exams body, only the SQA can maintain the consistency and the integrity of our qualifications. This year, by necessity, the moderation model is different and has been subject to additional scrutiny.

“Teachers and lecturers applied their judgements against national standards and today’s data shows that three out of every four grade estimates were not adjusted by the SQA.

“133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate, around a quarter of all entries. 6.9% of those estimates were adjusted up and 93.1% were adjusted down, with 96% of all adjusted grades changed by one grade.

“Without moderation, pass rates at grades A-C compared to last year would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher – annual change never been seen in Scottish exam results. I know teachers and lecturers will always want the best for their pupils but I believe that teachers have acted professionally.

“I know that learners who did not achieve what they were expecting will be disappointed, however the SQA will be operating a free appeals process this year. The appeals process is an integral part of awarding this year, and will play an important role in giving schools and colleges the opportunity to present evidence in support of teacher and lecturer estimates. The SQA has ensured that sufficient resources are in place to support this process and priority will be given to learners who need their grades to meet a conditional university or college offer.

“This year has been exceptionally challenging but these robust processes mean we have upheld standards so that all learners can hold their heads up and move onto the next phase in their life, whether that be further study, employment or training.“

Background

Detailed information on attainment statistics, and the SQA’s full awarding methodology, Equality Impact Assessment and Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment, is available from the Scottish Qualifications Authority

Students and parents can get further information and support from the  Skills Development Scotland helpline.

Categories
Education

SNP Funding Boost for Dundee Schools and Nurseries

New figures show half a billion in extra spending last year.

Joe FitzPatrick, MSP for Dundee City West Constituency, has welcomed new figures showing spending on education in Dundee rose by £10.7 million last year, up from £137.3 million in 2018-19 to £148 million in 2019-20.

The figures show councils across Scotland spent £547 million more on education in 2019-20 than the previous year – a real terms spending increase of 8%.

The increase was driven in large part by the SNP’s flagship policy of expanding free childcare.

Commenting, local MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“This SNP Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that our young people here in Dundee, and across Scotland, get the best possible start in life.

“We’ve handed local councils the cash needed to increase free childcare and early learning and are continuing to invest to improve attainment in schools.

“The coronavirus pandemic has understandably been a difficult time for schools and nurseries, and has underlined the importance of investing in education – which is why the Scottish Government is expanding free school meals over the summer holidays and providing extra financial support for higher education students.

“Despite these uncertain times, the Education Secretary has been clear that even more children and families will be able to benefit from this childcare expansion in the year ahead.”

Official Statistics publication of ‘Local Government 2019-20 Provisional Outturn and 2020-21 Budget Estimates – Revenue’ can be found here: www.gov.scot/isbn/9781839608346

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Free school meals extended

Additional £27.6 million to help feed pupils and other key groups.

Children eligible for free school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer through a package of £27.6 million of additional funding from the Scottish Government.

The funding will ensure councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays and other food provision to help low income families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The latest data from local authorities shows that around 175,000 children and young people are currently receiving free school meals – or vouchers or cash payments to buy meals.

The number of children receiving free school food has risen by 53,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and financial circumstances.

The extra funding will also enable councils to continue to support a range of people who may be facing new or continuing barriers to accessing food including due to reduced income caused if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing – until the end of September.

This funding is in addition to the overall package of £30 million allocated to councils in March to provide free school meals and offer food provision to key groups during lockdown.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney said:

“These are challenging times for families and economic uncertainty has added even more pressure on parents already dealing with the stress of this dire COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to ensure families are given the same support through the summer holidays as we provide in term time in recognition of this unprecedented situation. That is why free school meals provision is essential to support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this difficult time.

“This significant additional funding will allow councils to plan for the summer and to continue the existing provision, whether that be offering nutritious free meals for children or through more direct means allowing families to get food for their families. Councils will have the flexibility to ensure they are able to use this additional funding to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.

“£15 million of this funding is being made available to ensure we continue supporting the range of households who have been or may experience difficulty in accessing or affording food during the pandemic. We know that people are under pressure just now as they cope with the impact of COVID-19 and this funding shows we are doing all we can to help them at this difficult time. This funding is additional to the £350 million we have already made available.”

Background

Since 24 March councils have provided the Scottish Government with data on the number of children receiving a free school meal through the provision of vouchers, direct payments, home deliveries and provision in educational or early years settings. 

Individuals who are unable to access or afford food and cannot get the help they need from family, friends or neighbours are encouraged to call the national assistance helpline. The free helpline number is 0800 111 4000, or can be contacted via a textphone on 0800 111 4114. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Callers will be put through to speak to someone at their local council. They’ll be able to advise on what types of help are available. This might include:

  • food, if you’re not able to get the day-to-day food you need
  • medication, if you’re not able to pick up the prescriptions you need
  • access to local social work services
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

Categories
Coronavirus Education

£6.2 million Funding Boost for Dundee Schools

SNP government announces £50 million package to improve attainment.

MSP for Dundee City West Constituency, Joe FitzPatrick, has said pupils living in Dundee’s most deprived communities will benefit from targeted funding from the Attainment Scotland Fund to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.  

Dundee City Council will receive a £6,223,466 investment from the SNP Scottish Government to support pupils from deprived backgrounds.

To help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, schools and local authorities will have flexibility to redirect some of this funding from existing plans to best support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families, with a continued focus on equity in education.

The £50 million package is in addition to the £250 million Pupil Equity Funding package announced in May for the next two years and an investment of £9 million to provide 25,000 laptops to assist pupils learning at home.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“In Government, the SNP has put closing the poverty-related attainment gap front and centre of its plans to improve education.

“This latest funding boost for Dundee demonstrates this Government’s ambition to transform our schools and ensure that every young person gets the chance to succeed in life, regardless of their background.

“The Education Secretary, John Swinney, has also handed councils the flexibility to use this funding to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic so no child gets left behind.

“There’s still a lot to do in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland – but universal benefits like free school meals for our youngest pupils, free prescriptions and free higher education are helping keep more money in the pockets of hard working families here in Dundee.”

The Attainment Scotland Fund was established to support the Scottish Attainment Challenge in 2015.  This is a £750 million commitment over the course of this parliamentary term. The Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in the local authorities of Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation.

The nine ‘Challenge Authorities’ are Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.
Categories
Education Social Security

Parents In Dundee Encouraged To Apply For Best Start Grant

Joe FitzPatrick MSP for Dundee City West Constituency has encouraged parents of children aged four to five to apply for the SNP Government’s Best Start Grant.

A one-off £250 payment is currently open to eligible families, with a child who was born between 1st March 2015 and 29th February 2016, who will be starting primary school later this year (unless they have made different arrangements).

The School Age payment can be used for anything from a new pair of school shoes or arts and crafts materials for children.

The payment is part of the SNP Government’s Best Start Grant, a package of three payments for families in receipt of eligible benefits – including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit – to help at key stages in a child’s life.

Commenting, Joe FitzPatrick MSP said:

“Covering the costs of a child starting school can be tough on family finances, especially in the current climate.

“The SNP Government’s school age payment offers low income families, or those who receive support like Universal Credit, a £250 payment around the time children start at primary school.

“We’re absolutely determined that every child, regardless of circumstances, gets the best start in life. So in these unprecedented and difficult times, I’d encourage families across Dundee to check what other financial support they may be eligible for too – such as school clothing grants or free school meals.”

Visit mygov.scot or call 0800 182 2222 to find out more or apply.

If your child was born later than February 2016, you’ll be able to apply after May 2021.

If you get the School Age Payment, you’ll get £250 for each child you can get the payment for. The School Age Payment has not replaced the School Clothing Grant. The School Age Payment is a new payment and does not affect in any way payments of the School Clothing Grant. If you want to apply for both, you can.

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Safe return to schools and nurseries

Scientific advice behind re-opening published.

Education Secretary John Swinney has published a summary of the scientific advice behind the plans to re-open schools and Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings.

In agreement with councils, professional associations and parent representatives, all schools will return on 11 August while ELC settings such as nurseries and playgroups will open over the summer.

The plans are contingent on scientific and medical advice that it is safe to proceed and complementary public health measures, such as Test and Protect, being in place.

The paper highlights:

  • growing evidence that the susceptibility to clinical disease of younger children is lower than for adults
  • generally good evidence that the severity of disease in children is lower than in adults
  • the majority view of the Chief Medical Officer’s Advisory Group is that actions to support distancing guidance in schools where children are in indoor environments for extended periods of time would be appropriate, while a minority believed schools could operate without distancing

Mr Swinney today updated Parliament on the work to re-open schools and ELC settings. He said:

“School closures are considered to have a negative effect on all aspects of children and young people’s progress and development, as well as their wellbeing. That is why we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date it is safe to do so.

“The scientific evidence and advice is an important part of that decision, alongside consideration of the other harms caused by ongoing restrictions. That is why I have published a summary of the scientific evidence which has informed our discussions and decisions to date.

“The evidence around coronavirus in general, and that relating to children in particular, is continuing to evolve. Some aspects are not yet well understood – the science cannot in many cases provide us with definitive conclusions.

“The scientific advice that we have received so far leads us towards taking a cautious approach and we will continue to monitor the evidence and advice to inform decisions.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scientific evidence on schools and ELC settings

More information on the Strategic Framework published last week is here: https://www.gov.scot/news/schools-to-re-open-in-august/

Categories
Coronavirus Education Universities

Dundee’s Universities Set to Benefit from £75m Covid-19 Funding

One-off Scottish Government payment to help mitigate financial effects of COVID-19.

The Scottish Government has announced a one-off £75 million increase in funding for Scotland’s universities to ensure they can protect their world-leading research programmes against the financial impact of COVID-19.

The significant intervention will help secure the jobs and training needed to support ongoing and future research work, meaning institutions can concentrate fully on planning the long-term future of a sector so vital to the Scottish economy.

Universities will also be expected to adapt and use their own resources, as well as the packages of support for businesses provided by the UK Government, to counter the effects of the pandemic on research operations.

The new funding will replace lost research income, protect research jobs, and help universities focus more effort on the high priority research needed to fight the outbreak and to support society and the economy, post COVID-19.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, has now written to his UK Government counterpart Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, calling for a UK investment and support package for Higher Education (HE), including additional financial support for universities, to ensure they and their graduates can continue to play a key role in the UK’s economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

Scottish university income has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, most notably by a loss of international student income, cancelled conference bookings, and returned accommodation fees. Recent Scottish Funding Council (SFC) analysis indicated Scottish universities face a loss of around £72 million due to COVID-19 this academic year alone, with a collective operating deficit of between £384 million and £651 million forecast for next academic year.

The Scottish Government is working with the SFC and the sector to mitigate the current issues across the range of university activities including research, supporting teaching excellence and student well-being.

“Our world-renowned university research activities are under threat from COVID-19, from a loss of university income to the risk to jobs and investment.  That research is critical to Scotland’s future public health and prosperity. So we are investing now to protect our research sector’s excellence, with £75 million of additional funding, as we plan together for the future sustainability of Scotland’s society and economy as a whole.

“We are taking a partnership approach, talking to the universities and staff unions, as we build up our response. For the universities’ part, they are stepping up with a willingness to use part of this investment to support PhD students whose studies have been impacted by COVID-19.  

“Now we need the UK Government to join those efforts. So far, their main interventions have been focused on the HE sector south of the border. We need the UK Government to take a UK approach and join with Scottish universities and the Scottish Government to build a support package that will protect the sector from the impact of this virus.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP

The additional funding will be administered by the SFC.

“This is very welcome additional funding for research in Scotland.  We will work closely with the sector to ensure it helps universities continue with vital research, including the response to COVID-19, and contributions to our subsequent recovery.” 

SFC Chief Executive, Karen Watt

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the role research and innovation will play in supporting business and industry and strengthening our post COVID-19 economy and society.

“The pace of this commitment, and the injection of confidence it will give the research community within the sector, is very welcome.

“We will work closely with Government and the Scottish Funding Council to ensure this resource has the most impact, including support for our PhD students, who are our pipeline of talent for future research and who have been adversely affected by the instability created by the pandemic.”

Universities Scotland Convenor, Professor Andrea Nolan

Background

The additional money is research capital funding. University research is classed as capital in the current 2020-21 Scottish budget.  The details of the allocation to individual universities will be subject to consultation with the sector by the Scottish Funding Council. 

A number of PhD students will have their work interrupted by, as examples, the closure of laboratories or the inability to pursue fieldwork owing to COVID-19.  This intervention will give universities additional resource to respond, for example, by offering financial support to a student to extend a project once their practical work can recommence.