GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Protecting our society and personal reflection

While most teachers have been adapting to online working, some are ensuring that the children of key workers are looked after and learning in teaching hubs.

Local authorities acted quickly to ensure that Scotland’s schools were able to offer childcare and teaching to children of key workers, whose work is vital to the national response to Covid-19.

Greg Dempster, General Secretary of AHDS, the union for headteachers, deputy headteachers and principal teachers, said: “Local authorities and school teams had to respond to a complete change to ways of working overnight. As a result, there were a lot of unknowns and unanswered questions. From my perspective the system has, for the most part, responded extremely well – responding to issues and finding solutions.

“Teachers are developing their virtual classrooms all the time and ways of working in hubs are settling down. That said, it is all still very new to everyone and, as such, things are evolving all the time. This will need to continue in the current phase of the Covid-19 response as well as when we start to work towards a return to more ‘normal’ times.

“There are still difficulties with social distancing, particularly with younger children,” he added. However, attendance at hubs by pupils has been lower than the potential numbers identified, helping to manage physical distancing and new ways of working. For example, in early April, East Ayrshire Council was operating 13 hubs for early years and primary pupils but has since thanked parents and carers for allowing it to provide a more focused service from just five hubs. With more than 50 school hubs, Glasgow City Council has a significant number of children and parents to work with.

Jane Arthur, Lead Officer (Curriculum) and Developing the Young Workforce, Glasgow Education, said: “Staff are not only providing childcare for essential workers, they continue to coordinate and provide distance learning via school apps, Twitter and websites, maintaining contact with parents and children and young people online and through phone calls.

“Schools continue to liaise with partner agencies and third sector partners to ensure that our most vulnerable children and families are safe and well. The professionalism shown and the commitment to supporting all Glasgow’s children has been outstanding across the city.”

A sense of community through creativity

Jane Arthur and the Glasgow City Council Education team took to Twitter to promote a creative challenge for the hubs: to design their own hub shield for sharing on Twitter as well as for collation in a book of Glasgow’s school hub shields, part of the city’s documentation of its response to the pandemic. 

Jane said: “Our children will design an historic artefact in order that there is something to look back on, to remind ourselves about the genuine and concentrated efforts that Glasgow’s schools and Education Services have made during this time. Involving the children and young people in this task meant that it would represent their thoughts and ideas about what was happening to them and allow them to feel a sense of belonging in their school hub and identify with it, particularly if it was not their own local school. We look forward to seeing all the finished shields!” 

Teacher Stephanie Caldwell, working at the Toryglen Primary School hub with St Brigid’s Primary School, said: “We now have four children in our hub who will, of course, be in charge of shield design and creation. Our shield will show how our schools have united to safely support our families and show appreciation for selfless key workers.”

A time for personal reflection

Jo McKendrick, Principal Teacher/Challenge Leader of Learning at Knightswood Primary School, Glasgow, has been working in one of the many hubs teaching children of key workers. This is her story…

"It was a lovely morning when I arrived at my first shift in a hub school in the west end of Glasgow. I felt how I am sure many of the children have felt, as if on my first day at primary school. Three schools in the area were using the hub school and a register was available with the children who were expected to turn up this particular week.

“What surprised me most was that the children were wearing their school uniforms and schoolbags as if all was normal! After washing their hands they went into the dining area and ate their breakfast at separate tables. As a teacher at a large school I am used to noise – children talking and laughing – but, as there were only about 14 children from all stages, there was an eerie silence. The teachers walked around trying to make the children feel more at ease, making conversation and reassuring them that things would be back to normal soon.

“As a teacher used to organisation and timetables I wanted to start work, but when the children were all at different tables in silence and I saw their wee faces, all thoughts of timetables were thrown out. At this moment they were different from all of the children who were home schooling, they were in a minority and I felt my job was carer and friend.

“One of the children said that they understood that their mum was working very hard as a nurse and was extremely tired in the evening. Another said they really missed coming to school with their friends and the work.

“I said to the children that when I am worried sometimes writing it down helps, so we gave it a shot. An extract from one of the pupils touched my heart: ‘I am just a child so I have to do what adults tell me to do. I don’t always want to but I’m afraid to say no. I am scared for my family and friends as I don’t want them to die.’

“Afterwards we painted, played outdoor activities and had fun! Teachers are their school carers and we take on that role daily. In this situation, we need to spend time chatting, supporting and enjoying activities with them.”

Touched by the children’s own written extracts, Jo gave the task she had set her pupils a go

“I was brought up in Drumchapel, in a housing scheme built in the fifties to house an overspill of city population. My parents worked and both were clever but if your dad drank you had nothing, and that was the case in our house.

“At a very early age I wanted to be a teacher, so many of my childhood games involved gathering a group of children as my pupils, shouting and using the belt on them as those were my early experiences of attending a catholic school there.

“Teachers were scary in the sixties. In primary 3, I was singled out for not knowing my words on the flash cards and dragged along the corridor to primary 2. I was then known as the girl who was put back. They could not have got it more wrong. I was easily scared, shy and needed glasses so I could not see the words as I sat at the back of the class. This experience has stayed with me forever.

“My saving grace was my unconventional nana who lived in the countryside with my scary grandad. I spent all of my holidays as a tot with her in the middle of nowhere. She gave me time to play draughts, sing, act, cook, dance, dig up totties, plant and listen to stories. She boosted me up and told me never to think I was less than other people. She recognised something in me that no-one else did: my passion for learning. I used all of my summers at my nana’s to read books, write stories and act out historical plays. I learned how to make all of the wrong types of foods, ride a bike, feed piglets and chickens, identify animals and mini-beasts and what to do if I got stung by nettles.

“During terrible times and situations like mine, and our current challenge, children will find their way in life. I eventually made it into teaching at 29 and have had nearly 30 amazing years in education. I never gave up on my dream. Due to the pressures of work that people have these days, perhaps this is a time to just sit and reflect on what is important in life. For the first time I hear the birds singing, notice spring buds and baby animals. Our roads are quiet, no fast food outlets are open and more parents are at home.

“Schools are amazing places today, where children feel cared for and safe but, as a child, being at home with your parent/carer is where you want to be and I believe when we do return to school and work, children will bring a wealth of experiences and future dreams back with them.”