When the aims and objectives for the Education Service were set for 2019 – 2020, no one could have envisaged the year ahead and the significant impact the pandemic would have on Education Services globally.
Linda McAulay-Griffiths, Head of Education presented the report, which sets out achievements within key areas including Improving Attainment, Closing the Attainment Gap, Improving Health and Wellbeing, Improving Employability and Skills and Digital Transformation. She said: “I am presenting this report in extraordinary times. It contains a huge array of information and data that details the superb achievements and attainment of the young people and families that we serve and details our response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of all staff in our schools and support services in achieving the best possible outcomes for our learners. Through working in partnership with colleagues from across the Council, partner services and most importantly with our parents and carers, we have created an environment where children and young people are supported to reach their potential and achieve excellent outcomes, despite facing the most difficult of circumstances.”
The report highlighted the important role that Parent Councils have played during the pandemic. In the last year parental involvement significantly increased, Parent Councils continue to work in strategic partnership with our schools and Early Childhood Centres. They have also worked in partnership with the Council attending key meetings with schools, ECCs and the Parent Council Steering Group, throughout the pandemic, providing insight and proactively representing our young people, particularly when highlighting their concerns directly to the SQA.
Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “Throughout the pandemic I have met remotely with the Head of Education, colleagues from across the Council, Community Planning partners, professional bodies, parents and carers and our young people to ensure that all perspectives are considered and that our plans reflect the needs of our communities. We have felt, and acted, like a team throughout this very difficult time and I can’t praise our employees, our parents and carers and our children and young people enough. Our collective goals and ambitions are clear – to achieve excellence and equality for all our young people. We are making good progress but there is still much to do.
“As a Scottish Attainment Challenge Authority, we will continue to work innovatively to find new ways to close the attainment gap year on year. We will support children, young people, and their families during the pandemic in any way that we can and focus on rebuilding their emotional and mental wellbeing as we move out of the pandemic next year. Our home link workers, who have seen significant success over the past year, will continue to provide practical and emotional support to families. Pupil Equity Funding, allocated directly to schools will continue to be utilised with a clear focus on closing the attainment gap, this year this work has included providing children and young people with electronic devices and connectivity packages to ensure that they can easily learn from home.”
In addition to the strides made in engagement and achievement, the school estate has improved significantly thanks to the Council’s 10 year Capital Investment Programme. In February, Bellsbank Primary, Early Childhood Centre and community facility opened its doors and has already had a significant impact on our children and the local community. The Barony Campus, Scotland’s most innovative, ambitious and inclusive learning facilities, opened its doors to the young people of The Robert Burns Academy in October, while Lochnorris Primary, Hillside School and Cherry Trees Early Childhood Centre opened in November. Looking ahead to next year, Loanhead Primary and Early Childhood Centre is progressing well onsite and is due for completion in February 2021; while a new modular building is being built at Lainshaw Primary, housing two classrooms and will be ready early next year. There are significant projects still in the planning stages including a new build school for Netherthird, an upgrade and extension of Crosshouse Primary and Communication Centre and the refurbishment of St Sophia’s Primary.
The revised plans for the final phase of the Early Learning and Childcare expansion in East Ayrshire was agreed by Cabinet in September and all 36 Early Childhood Centres (ECC) will be in a position to deliver 1140 hours by August 2021.
Construction work restarted in June and four projects will be completed and registered with the Care Inspectorate between October 2020 and February 2021. The two new builds, Cherry Trees ECC (Barony Campus) and Loanhead ECC and the extensions at Cairns ECC and Onthank ECC will be in a position to deliver increased hours, subject to additional staff being in place, between January and February 2021.
Councillor Campbell said: “The Education Standards and Quality report contains data and figures that demonstrate the success we have achieved. Each piece of data is a young person or a child and an important part of a local family. The Education Service is responsible for the education of over 16,000 school age children and 3,050 who attend an early childhood centre. Like all parents and carers, we want every single one of those children to achieve and reach their full potential, and I am delighted that in 2019-20 over 94% of young people achieved positive destinations on leaving school.
“2020 has been so difficult but when you watch the wonderful videos of our staff, children and young people have made recently and shared on social media, it fills you with hope for the future. Our children and young people deserve to succeed and we will ensure that we will do everything we can to make that happen.”