CONCERNS have been raised about the education of Scotland's children as  new analysis has revealed two thirds of parents have complained their school was not providing online lessons during the coronavirus lockdown.

It has prompted concerns about the delivery of the Scottish Government's controversial 'blended learning' plans when schools are due to open again in August, and would involve children having face-to-face teaching in schools some of the time with the rest of the learning done at home.

Ministers have had discussions with the General Teaching Council about recruiting qualified teachers who are not working full time, including those who are retired, to come back in to support the blended learning effort in the new term.

The new poll of the experiences of over 2000 parents who gathered in an online webinar organised by the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) last week to discuss the issues arising from the coronavirus lockdown, discovered the majority felt that they were not getting enough support from schools during the lockdown.

Some 62% reported that their school had not provided online lessons, either live or recorded, for children while confined to the house.

READ MORE: Thousands of former teachers asked to help implement ‘blended’ schooling

The revelations emerging from a poll of the parents found the biggest challenge faced by parents when supporting learning from home was balancing work with supporting the children (48%), motivating kids to learn (23%) and not having enough resources and/or support from the school (12%).

HeraldScotland:

Asked what the major concerns of parents were about the return to school, over two in three raised the issue of not having enough face-to-face time with teachers.  Some 57% highlighted the struggle over balancing work with school duties, while 29% said were worried that their children will not progress enough to sit exams.

The widespread concerns of parents were registered at the webinar event attended by Deputy First Minister John Swinney to discuss the impact of school closures due to Covid-19.

NPFS chairman Joanna Murphy said there was a "real inconsistency" over educational delivery between local authorities and that there would be no excuse over a lack of planning when children return to school.

"A lot of parents are finding they are not hearing from their schools, they are not hearing from them enough, and they feel sometimes they are not hearing anything at all.  There needs to be a significant amount of information shared to parents to reassure them... before we send back our children into the schools."

She added: "We need to knock our heads together," she said. "And we need to work harder together."

Mr Swinney told the group of the blended learning plans, as some parents raised concerns about the support they would get going forward after the lockdown experience.

READ MORE: Scottish college staff demand four-day week and £1,100 pay rise in 'new normal' proposals

He said that pupils in schools with lower occupancy rates would have a greater opportunity to remain in school - as there is greater capacity for social distancing.

And he revealed discussions had been held with local authorities to consider using other local government-owned buildings as classrooms, such as leisure facilities, unused office accommodation or even church halls to "maximise" face-to-face learning.

HeraldScotland:

"I acknowledge and recognise the enormous burden parents have been carrying over the last few months as a consequence of the lockdown," he said.

He called on employers to be "understanding" with staff trying to spend time at home to cope with blended learning and suggested issues are best resolved within the workplace.

"Blended learning is not a new concept. It is educationally a concept that is well-developed. I have had many conversations with teachers who are actually revelling in the opportunity to further develop blended learning, because they think educationally it is a very successful approach to deliver learning.  But it is different to what we are accustomed to so far. And we need to ensure it is delivered effectively."

The poll punctuated the national parents' group's overview of feedback received from parents during lockdown which says they are "struggling" to help support their children learning for a variety of reasons including a "lack of communication, resources and support from their schools".

They expressed worry about the lack of, or reduced, progress in learning compared with being in school.

The analysis states: "There is growing frustration among many parents at the inconsistency across schools and local authorities. Many parents are concerned that their child has had less support than others, and that this has had a damaging impact on their learning. Parents are increasingly telling us that all schools must work to put measures in place to adequately support any future learning at home.

"Many schools have struggled to strike the right balance. Some parents have said their school is putting their children under too much pressure to complete too many assignments. Others have said their child has received little, or no, classwork or support, or that the work their child is submitting is not getting marked."

HeraldScotland:

But the group's analysis said parents are also concerned about the effect the lockdown was having on the mental health and well-being of children and young people.

"Many parents are worried about their child’s isolation from friends and extended family, and some have said that their child has become more withdrawn," the group said.

"Many parents are worried about the effect on their child’s social skills, especially those with younger children, or with children who find social interaction particularly challenging.

"There are many parents struggling to help motivate their children and maintain a positive frame of mind. This has been particularly difficult for parents of teenagers, who have been dealing with cancelled exams

"Many parents of children in transition years say their children are particularly anxious and upset."

The group highlighted difficulties in meeting the needs of several children and a lack of respite care for children with additional or complex needs.

Pressures of caring for family members that are self-isolating or shielding along with financial pressures due to cuts in income due to being furloughed or falling 'falling through the cracks’ in qualifying for government support.

Many parents raised issues in supporting senior phase subjects, including a parent finding it, understandably, impossible to support children studying higher chemistry and advanced higher maths.

One said: "Parents working from home do need childcare provision to begin as soon as it’s possible. It’s so intolerable at times – torn between leaving your kids to it to complete work or home schooling or seeing to pre-schoolers when you should be working.”

HeraldScotland:

Aside from the emotional impact of cancelled exams, parents have concerns over results and whether this will be managed fairly.

Mr Swinney told parents in an online question-and-answer session that ministers wanted to ensure that the breadth of education is not diminished going forward, and that curriculum guidance stresses the importance of the well-being of returning pupils and ensuring the foundations of literacy and numeracy are "properly dealt with".

He added: "We have said, really first and foremost, we have to make sure the well-being of young people is assured when they return to school, because if it is not and not attended to that and supported them, then they are going to struggle to learn.  Young people have got to come to school feeling safe, supported, nurtured and involved.

"I don't underestimate the scale of impact this period has had, might have had, on children and young people."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it had called for Government funding to provide mentoring support and tuition for those pupils most disadvantaged by lockdown - to allow them access to online support.

“The Covid-19 crisis has created many challenges for schools, pupils, parents and teachers. Schools were required, at very short notice, to create entirely new practice to support learning and teaching with pupils and teachers working from home. This is very different from the normal operation of schools, where face-to-face teaching and social interaction are essential elements of the learning experience," he said.

“Schools and teachers have worked extremely hard to support young people throughout this crisis, including through online learning. However, this mode of learning also brings challenges – including lack of access for many young people, particularly those experiencing disadvantage associated with poverty.

“Clearly, the educational model that has been adopted during the lockdown period is less than ideal, and teaching unions continue to engage with key stakeholders – including the National Parent Forum for Scotland – through the Scottish Government’s Education Recovery Group to agree the best way forward for education in the months ahead.”