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Top Scots school Head “tired of constantly shifting sand” trying to run school during pandemic

A TOP Scots private school headteacher has said he is “tired of constantly shifting sand” while trying to run his school with ever-changing Covid measures.

Rod Grant, head of £13,000-per year at Clifton Hall School in Edinburgh, said “in our desperate attempt to ‘save the NHS’ we may have inadvertently endangered our education system.”

The 57-year-old was responding to comments from Scotland’s Education Secretary saying that children may have to wait until March to find out if there will be exams.

Rod Grant
Rod Grant.

Mr Grant suggested that the Scottish Government is waiting to see what the UK Government does with the exams before they make a decision. 

However, he believes that if the SNP are worried about the exams they should stop “dithering” and cancel them now to be fair on children. 

Mr Grant detailed how difficult it has been for schools to operate when teachers have to self isolate when they don’t have Covid themselves.

In making his comments, the private school Head highlighted evidence showing how the pandemic has had a severe social, educational and wellbeing impact on children.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Grant said: “: “Schools on the brink, (again…)

“I copy below an extract of the minutes taken from the most recent meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education. 

“The full text is available on the Scottish Government’s website.

“‘The sub-group reiterated their previous advice regarding the wider accumulated harms that children and young people had suffered as a result of the pandemic, which should continue to be taken into consideration in any decisions about further protection measures in schools and ELC settings.

“’Evidence is growing that the pandemic has had severe social, educational and wellbeing impacts on children and young people, including on their mental health.

“’There is also growing evidence of the impact on the very youngest children in terms of developmental delay, with potential long-term consequences.’”

“I could be quite assertive here and say, ‘No s**t, Sherlock’. We were pointing out the harms being done to children 12 months ago, when no one in Government was listening.

He continued: “Today, we have learned that a decision regarding exams won’t potentially be made until the end of March. 

“The Government needs to stop dithering on such issues because ultimately it is our children who suffer from being in a constant state of flux, as do our teachers.

Clifton Hall School
Clifton Hall School in Edinburgh.

“I appreciate the contextual difficulties within which we are operating but we need to put those difficulties to one side and make a decision. 

“If the Government is worried that exams may not go ahead then just cancel them now. 

“That would be fair to our children.

“Perhaps, however, our Government is waiting to see what England does – that seems to be the way political decisions in Scotland are currently being handled.”

He added: “As a Head, I am really, really tired of the constantly shifting sands on which we are meant to operate. 

“However, I reiterate what I said twelve months ago: Children need to be with their friends.

“They need to play. 

“They need to develop their social and academic skills. 

“The best place to do this is at school and for that reason alone schools must remain open. 

“However, that is increasingly difficult when teachers are having to self-isolate even when they do not themselves have Covid. 

“We already know of schools that have sent home entire year groups for the remainder of January because of the absence of teachers.

“When you try to protect one part of society from COVID, it would appear you end up crippling another. 

“In our desperate attempt to ‘save the NHS’ we may have inadvertently ‘endangered our education system’ and, in so doing, our children. 

“That is inexcusable.”

The post has received over 100 likes and dozens of comments from parents and alumni who agree with Mr Grant’s message.

Jo Bisset said: “Thank you for your ongoing advocacy for children. 

“It is astonishing how obstinately blind people have chosen to be with regards to the enormous harm that continues to be inflicted on children.”

Sandra Willis said: “I heed your concerns and echo your sentiments. 

“Continuously prioritising economic over social development needs, especially when concerning our children’s well-being is beyond reprehensible.”

Natalie Buckland said: “You are a wonderful headteacher – and so brave to speak so openly in support of our children during these difficult times.

“I really hope the parents and children of your school appreciate your human approach.

“I truly believe children now need their teachers and head teachers to show them that they are the priority and that their teachers are not just government mouthpieces.

“The last paragraph really resonates with me – I have felt this way for a long time and your words sum it up so well, children should be the last ones being crippled by the events of the last two years.

“Thank you for your voice.”

George Mutch said: “Well said. 

“Politicians are treating Covid as if it has an end game and we’re part way through it. 

“It’s Mother Nature. 

“It’s unpredictable. 

“We all need to learn to live with it and get back to living as “normally” as we can. 

“Mental health remains an area where most UK politicians are still way behind on the learning curve. 

“They acknowledge it, but their actions are insufficient. 

“Especially with the younger people in our lives.”

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show on Sunday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the “very latest” that this year’s exams would be cancelled would be the end of March.

However, she said it is still the Scottish Government’s “intention” for exams to go ahead as normal this summer after they were cancelled in both 2020 and 2021.

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