Confidence rises as education turns a corner - Ian Perry
This past year has been like no other for our schools. Who could have predicted the enormous disruption learning and teaching would experience with schools closed for months, positive Covid cases and pupils, teachers and whole classes having to self-isolate?
Huge thanks must go to all our teaching staff and the numerous teams across the council who worked tirelessly to keep schools open and when required put in place home learning plans.
And let’s not forget the most important group - our young people for their resilience in these most challenging of times and parents and carers for their unwavering support.
Despite the disruption the pandemic has caused we have much to look forward to in the year ahead.
Our Empowered Learning project, in partnership with our ICT services provider CGI, will see every pupil from Primary 6 upwards given their own iPad. In total 39,000 devices will be distributed to our young people and teaching staff as part of our ambitious and inclusive education strategy Edinburgh Learns for Life.
It’s a real game-changer for education in Edinburgh by improving outcomes, increasing engagement and motivating our young people. It’s so important we do everything we can to allow them to reach their fullest potential and ensure the equity gap in Scotland’s capital does not widen.
In August we’re going to meet our target to provide the additional 1140 hours funded of early learning and childcare. Providing double the number of hours for three and four-year- olds plus eligible two-year-olds has been a huge undertaking but it’s thanks to the foresight of our early years teams that we put in place the building blocks four years ago so we would achieve this goal.
We currently have settings open from 8am to 6pm all year round, have strengthened our partnerships with the Scottish Childminding Association and are forging ahead with our sector-leading Forest Kindergartens with seven venues open across the city.
Despite the impact of the pandemic on the construction industry I’m pleased to see that our five new early years buildings at Craigentinny, Granton, Nether Currie, St John Vianney and St Mark’s primary schools are back on track and due to open next year despite the impact of the pandemic on the construction industry.
Investing in new buildings in our education estate is a key pledge of our Administration and we have committed funds in future budgets as part of our ambitious new school building programme which will see more than £500m planned investment over the next decade.
Highlights include the new Frogston primary opening this month, a new Queensferry High welcoming pupils last August and a replacement Castlebrae due for completion early next year. With many other new schools and buildings currently under construction we will not let up in our ambition to provide the very best learning and teaching environment for our young people.
So all in all this has been a year like never before but the huge ‘Team Edinburgh’ effort has steered our schools through the enormous challenges put in front of us and we can now look forward with renewed optimism to the future.
Cllr Ian Perry is Convener of the Education, Children and Families Committee
and Scottish Labour councillor for Southside / Newington