A councillor has accused Fife education bosses of ducking questions on remote learning engagement amid fears thousands of secondary school pupils across Scotland were not participating in online lessons.
Linda Holt, East Neuk and Landward councillor, accused education convener Craig Walker of playing “political games” following a full council meeting on Thursday.
Ms Holt had asked a series of questions relating to remote learning, including how many children had not been regularly attending the online classes.
Her questions come as we revealed concerns that fourth year pupils could leave school in the summer with no qualifications after becoming detached during lockdown.
In response, Mr Walker, who represents Glenrothes West and Kinglassie, referenced a remote learning evaluation from January which said 48% of all Fife schools reported almost all of their pupils were engaging with remote learning.
The schools also said most of their learners – over 75% – were taking part in lessons.
It gives me no reassurance at all that Fife Council is taking seriously the difficulties young people face accessing online learning.”
Councillor Linda Holt
However Ms Holt said the response was “unsatisfactory” and only provided the “positive spin”, despite her queries specifically asking about the pupils who were not engaging.
Following the meeting, she told us: “It gives me no reassurance at all that Fife Council is taking seriously the difficulties young people face accessing online learning or doing all they can when they play down the number and the difficulties, and come up with no specific action plans to pick up these lost learners.”
The councillor, who is also standing as an Alliance for Unity candidate in May’s Holyrood elections, claimed Mr Walker was politicising the issue after he alluded to her election campaign during the meeting.
More than 7,000 digital devices have been provided to disadvantaged young people experiencing connectivity issues.
However there were approximately 4,500 children who have had limited access to a device during lockdown as a result of sharing the device with siblings or parents.
Teachers and education staff as a whole should be congratulated not criticised.”
Councillor Craig Walker.
Mr Walker urged councillors to praise teaching staff for their efforts in supporting families through “unprecedented circumstances”.
“I do feel it is slightly harsh for Councillor Holt to portray this as a crisis.
“It’s an extremely difficult set of circumstances that our staff are having to deal with and our pupils and parents as well for that matter.
“It’s totally unprecedented circumstances that none of us have ever seen and therefore I think on that basis, teachers and education staff as a whole should be congratulated not criticised.”