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Forres mum Elizabeth Watson calls for all pupils to be sent back to school now

By Garry McCartney

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Elizabeth hopes that a solution to the academic issues caused by lockdown can be found as soon as possible.
Elizabeth hopes that a solution to the academic issues caused by lockdown can be found as soon as possible.

A FORMER chairwoman of Forres Academy parent council wants the government to focus on the harm of 18 months of disrupted schooling.

Elizabeth Watson, who has a teenage son at the school, believes all must face up to what lockdown is doing to pupils and reopen all schools fully without delay.

She said: “It’s well past time to accept that Covid-19 will not be eliminated from society and move forward. Measures could include prioritising school staff for vaccinations, investing in NHS capacity and early stage treatment of symptoms to prevent hospitalisation, vaccination roll out to all, and encouraging better care of general health.”

Elizabeth’s son, in S5 at the start of the pandemic, is now in S6. She believes he is an academic student who enjoys his studies but, like many of his peers, is finding the second lockdown particularly difficult.

Elizabeth said: “He was gutted to have exams cancelled last year. He was aiming for five As in Highers but, given that he underperformed in prelims, his result was three As and two Bs. These were good results, but he feels cheated.”

She added: “My son managed through to June despite the numerous disappointments of the year. He had two Zoom lessons a week with a private tutor and a few online lessons a week from the academy.”

Elizabeth’s son thought it was great to get back to school in August, gearing up to Advanced Highers, and was motivated to work hard for his assessments.

However, she believes the second school closure has been too much.

She said: “I have seen him go from an enthusiastic student to someone who is not seeing the point. With the end of schooling in May, it is likely that his Advanced Higher year will amount to four months, plus an assessment month.”

She added: “I am concerned that if a pupil of his nature is becoming worn down by social isolation and lack of real interaction with teachers, what is the position for less fortunate pupils?”

Elizabeth also feels for education staff to whom she is grateful for going “beyond any reasonable expectation”. However, she does not believe the education delivered has met the needs of pupils.

Forres Academy delivers three live online lessons of one hour each per week in her son’s Advanced Higher courses. New work is presented and the requirements of assignments explained. During the rest of the week, work varies in amount and is undertaken unsupported at home.

Elizabeth said: “A key part of learning lies in discussions with peers and teachers. The pressure of class tests and competition with peers is missing. It is possible that remote learning facilitated by modern technology has done our youth a disservice - without this technology the government would have no option but to keep schools open.”

Elizabeth has written to Forres Academy head teacher, Mrs Jan Sinclair, and Moray Council’s head of education, Ms Vivienne Cross, expressing concerns about the government’s response to “a crisis in education”.

She said: “The damage to youth cannot be measured in deaths, hospital admissions, infection rates or similar data which they tell us is driving every decision.”

Mrs Sinclair confirmed she agrees on the importance of a return to normal schooling. The vaccination of staff alongside other mitigations such as mass testing in school are regularly raised with government by headteachers and teaching unions. Throughout lockdown, Forres Academy has monitored pupil engagement and wellbeing through registration from 8-10.30am each day. The school has also monitored pupil engagement in subjects.

But Elizabeth said: “We have received one letter after another from Mrs Sinclair and Ms Cross referring to ‘fantastic engagement from young people producing amazing work in challenging circumstances. I do not see this.”

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