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Highland Council's education chairman hails efforts of schools' staff in meeting the challenges of Covid-19 crisis

By Alasdair Fraser

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School staff across the Highlands were praised at last week’s Highland Council education committee meeting for “professionalism and compassion” in tackling the challenges of the pandemic.

Committee chairman John Finlayson told fellow councillors that staff deserved thanks for their efforts through periods of home-learning and in supporting pupils through the assessment process.

Members were also updated on Highland’s return-to-school journey at the meeting.

Cllr Finlayson said: “Despite the challenges of the last year, this has been an exciting term for our schools as children and young people have returned to reconnect with face to face learning.

“School staff have shown tremendous resilience and enthusiasm as they have coped with periods of remote learning.

Cllr John Finlayson.
Cllr John Finlayson.

“Our secondary schools have faced an additional challenge with the SQA’s alternative certification model.

“Their professionalism and compassion have been hugely important in supporting young people through the assessment process.

“Our school communities are at the heart of all of our work and we are grateful to all of our head teachers, and all other school staff, for their hard work and commitment as we come to the end of a very challenging school session.”

The chairman invited other members of the education committee who have been actively involved in supporting The Return to School Project Board to provide updates on work that has been carried out.

Cllr Graham MacKenzie highlighted successful cross-service working which ensured the re-opening of educational settings.

High on the list was close working on safe transport between schools and contractors under rapidly changing Scottish Government guidance.

Catering and cleaning services ensuring continuity of education were also praised, along with an effective central welfare support, where hubs worked with education and learning to identify families in need of financial, practical and food support.

Cllr MacKenzie also praised enhanced digital support within the service, supported by information and communications technology to ensure a robust response to delivering online learning.

Cllr MacKenzie added: “Thank you to everyone across all services, including High Life Highland for their hard work, dedication, feedback, experience and support over the last year to enable a full-time return to school for all our young people in Highland.”

Cllr Tom Heggie, vice-chairman of education, updated members on recruitment, leadership and parental and partner engagement.

He said: “Officers have engaged with the Highland Parent Council Partnership, often presenting at evening meetings on, for example, remote learning and SQA matters.

“Further meetings are planned as we move forward.

“Our key partners in all of our work are our school communities and we are committed to a collaborative and empowered approach as we continue to develop our strategic vision for education and learning in Highland to improve outcomes for all.”

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