Letter about return to school August 2020, from Parent Councils

FAO:

Ian Perry, Convenor, Education Cttee, City of Edinburgh Council

Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive, City of Edinburgh Council

Andy Gray, Education and Lifelong Learning, City of Edinburgh Council

Alistair Gaw, Education and Families, City of Edinburgh Council

CC:

Cllrs, Main, Ross, Cook, Arthur, Watt, Corbett, Key , Rust, Doggart, McVey, Johnston
Daniel Johnstone MSP, Ian Murray, MP, Joanna Cherry MP

On behalf of the Parent Council Chairs from Boroughmuir High School, Buckstone Primary School, Bruntsfield Primary School,  James Gillespie’s Primary School, Tollcross Primary School, Royal Mile Primary School, James Gillespies High School, Preston Street Primary School, Taobh na Pairce, Sciennes Primary School, Bonaly Primary School, Juniper Green Primary School, Longstone Primary School, Towerbank Primary School & Nether Currie Primary School.  

We are writing to express our deep concern over the City of Edinburgh plans for the reopening of schools in August 2020.  The impact on the education, social and emotional well being of our children and of the ability of parents to return to work will be severely hindered and damaged by the approach outlined so far. 

 It is the duty of every education authority in Scotland to secure that there is adequate and efficient provision of school education in their area (section 1(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (as amended)).  It is the duty of every education authority to secure that education: is directed to the development the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child to their fullest potential; and promotes the physical, social, mental and emotional health and well-being of pupils (sections 2(1) and 2A(2) of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 (as amended)).  

It is the corresponding right of every child of school age to be provided with school education by an education authority that meets those minimum standards (section 1 of the SSS Act 2000).  That fundamental right is also enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 28), adopted into UK law in 1992.

The plan for children to return to school in August outlined in the City of Edinburgh Council’s letter dated 12 June singularly fails to discharge the education authority’s obligations under the legislation noted above.   The issues with the current proposals are multiple, such as the provision of less than 30% face-to-face teaching time and the lack of clarity about online teaching provision.  It also fails to give effect to children’s rights under national and international law and is likely to increase existing inequalities significantly.  

In addition, we understand that any changes in education provision should be subject to consultation. Since 20th March 2020 when schools closed, the council have failed to engage with parent groups, for example cancelling Locality meetings, and have consistently been slow to respond to parents’ concerns.  

We appreciate that this is a national crisis but feel it is reasonable to expect more to be done at both a local and national level.  The devolved nature of responsibility for education should not result in sub-standard and inconsistent provision across the country; we consider that the current situation requires a national and coordinated response across Scotland.  Whilst primary schools are craving space  – potentially outdoor – in order to increase attendance we appreciate this is not necessarily a solution for secondary schools.

A survey conducted on 16 June 2020 of over 1000 parents in excess of 30 Edinburgh south schools. Whilst this survey was blunt it sought to extract the views of parents around the proposal published on 12 June. Parental views were as follows:

  • 89% of parents do not agree that 33% of pupils in school is adequate
  • 89% expect CEC to investigate additional buildings including libraries and church halls
  • 87% expect CEC to investigate the use of outside spaces such as the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links and Harrison Parks
  • 93% of parents expect increased support for in-home learning from August 2020
  • 93% of parents expect CEC to publish a full roadmap explaining the review points and progress towards reestablishing full school timetabling
  • 71% of parents feel communication has not been adequate since March 2020

Clearly, CEC are failing in their recognition of the severity of this issue and the impacts it will have on families on many levels. 

We ask that the Council revisit its current approach urgently, engage with parents in making plans for improved provision from August 2020 and display leadership in publishing a clear roadmap to get our schools back to full time teaching in order that families can plan the support they need for session 2020/21.   

We want the voice of parents and children to be heard so we can all work together to develop and deliver an approach that safe-guards the health and wellbeing of kids and families and of teachers and the school community whilst delivering the quality education that our children deserve,  

Signed

Parent Council Chairs:
Bruntsfield Primary School

James Gillespies Primary School

Buckstone Primary School

Boroughmuir High School 

Tollcross Primary School 

Preston Street Primary School

Royal Mile Primary School 

James Gillespies High School,

Preston Street Primary School

Taobh na Pairce

Sciennes Primary School

Bonaly Primary School

Juniper Green Primary School

Longstone Primary School

Towerbank Primary School

Nether Currie Primary School

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