04 May 2021

Area Committee learns about academies support to pupils during lockdown

Members of the Marr Area Committee heard how four Aberdeenshire academies supported their pupils during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The report presented to the committee outlined measures that Aboyne, Alford and Banchory Academies and The Gordon Schools in Huntly put in place to support pupils during challenging and changeable times as schools were forced to close, and learning moved online resulting in the cancellation of Advanced Higher, Higher and National 5 exams.

Aboyne Academy made sure pupils and staff were listened to by issuing wellbeing questionnaires to both staff and pupils. Guidance Teachers followed up and analysed pupils’ feedback making sure it was acted upon whilst responses from staff allowed the senior leadership team to offer support to staff that met their needs.

The school also carried out self-evaluation with Alford and Westhill Academies prior to the pandemic. The links established at faculty level proved useful when supporting and moderating internal SQA assessments.

Alford Academy also fostered a nurturing and supportive environment during the last lockdown. There were planned opportunities for young people to build relationships and connect with each other, creating a culture of trust where peers supported and challenged each other to succeed. The school invited SAMH to train senior pupils to act as Mental Health Ambassadors, who were on hand to signpost and support younger pupils. 

Staff were given training to increase their digital skills allowing them to deliver remotely and also had the opportunity to learn from best practice when it came to remote learning. Encouragement was given to staff to share their experiences and work collaboratively both with colleagues from other schools.

Banchory Academy has used additional Covid-19 funding to employ a Principal Teacher of Targeted Support. This has created a larger pupil support team to help young people during the recent lockdown. The assistance provided included phone calls, door-step visits, and virtual meetings. This approach saw over 130 young people receiving weekly contact.

An additional Pupil Support Worker funded through Pupil Equity Funding has been an invaluable resource for the school during the last lockdown. Pupils have been taking part in weekly bike maintenance workshops and have undertaken mountain bike challenges in the local area.

The Gordon Schools in Huntly now offer even more targeted support for pupils and families through the enhanced use of IT. There have been over 150 ‘check-ins’ each week for those in need of additional pastoral support. To help ensure every pupil has access to a digital device, the school has so far received 117 Chromebooks from Connecting Scotland, with potentially 100 more on the way, Mi-fi connectivity boosters, ten Dell laptops courtesy of Asda and 30 Vodafone data packages have made it easier for pupils, parents and carers to learn online.

During the Easter break around 80 pupils participated in the school’s Easter Revision sessions, which were led by teachers who really want to support families keen for their children to learn.

Laurence Findlay, Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, said: “Pupils, teachers and parents and carers have had to adapt to new ways of learning at very short notice. Reading about the support provided by our schools to help children and young people receive the best possible education in such difficult and uncertain circumstances gives me a real sense of pride. Schools in Aberdeenshire really are making a positive difference to the communities they serve.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Education Vincent Docherty added: “I am in absolutely no doubt the resilience and support offered by teachers across Aberdeenshire will have a profoundly positive impact on the way the children and young people develop in later life. These examples are a true testament to the dedication teachers have shown in supporting and nurturing young people often virtually whilst assisting parents and carers who are whilst willing educators are often juggling work as well as home schooling.”

To read the report in full please visit: https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=10&meetid=19795