Urgent action should be taken to employ supply teachers to provide extra catch-up support for pupils during the pandemic, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.
The party’s education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart MSP has written to Education Secretary John Swinney calling on him to introduce urgent measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for children who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.
She said that such a catch-up mechanism “could help dampen the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning”.
It comes after Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) general secretary Larry Flanagan called for “the rapid employment of supply teachers currently seeking work to provide additional support to those pupils struggling to engage with remote learning”.
In her letter, Ms Wishart wrote: “Teachers are working flat out to give pupils the best education they can. But supply teachers are telling me that they have consistently been underemployed since the start of the pandemic.
“I am writing to urge you to immediately lend your support to the introduction of new measures to employ qualified supply teachers to provide extra support for pupils who would benefit from catch-up support and extra one-on-one learning.
“I believe such a new catch-up mechanism, rooted in the judgment of class teachers, could help dampen the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning.”
Most pupils are currently taking part in online learning, with only those deemed vulnerable and the children of key workers attending school.
Ms Wishart said that the loss of routine, time spent with friends and full access to normal learning has been hard, and “children have missed out on so much over the past year”.
She added: “The evidence I am receiving is that supply teachers have the capacity to help bridge some of that gap, both during the current period of remote learning, (and) also once schools return.
“They have valuable skills and experience, and can provide precious additional support. We should be looking to bring in every helping hand available.
“The nationwide package agreed in the spring for supply teachers helped with their initial predicament.
“But I believe there is now an urgent need to establish new catch-up mechanisms, and that supply teachers can be a part of this.”
Mr Swinney, who is also Deputy First Minister, said: “The number of full time equivalent teachers is at its highest since 2008 and since the start of the pandemic our additional funding has led to 1,400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed.
“Last week we allocated an additional £45 million to councils to support schools and families.
“That funding, which is sufficient to fund 2,000 additional teachers, can be used to recruit additional staff including supply teachers.”