Headteacher pledges that no exam pupil will be disadvantaged.
NO LANGHOLM Academy pupils, due to sit their exams next month, will be disadvantaged by their cancellation, their headteacher has pledged.
Lauren McLean-Gill, headteacher of the Langholm and Canonbie Schools Cluster, said it was a shame for the pupils that the schools had been forced to close at this time.
“We’re getting updates from the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) quite frequently at the moment.
“It’s working on pulling together all the evidence it needs to support what the young people would have achieved had they had the opportunity to take their exams.
“We want the best for our pupils and it’s a shame that this has happened to them.
“I believe the SQA is working really hard to come up with an approach to ensure pupils will be credited with the awards they would have got if they had sat their exams and we trust the system.
“The academy is ranked 19th in Scotland for Highers’ results so we have to be optimistic for the pupils. The staff are working hard behind the scenes to get them their accreditation.”
Mrs McLean-Gill said senior members of staff were taking a day each to be in the school so there was someone to answer the phone and take queries.
“It’s a very different way of working for us. We want the pupils back and get back to normal as soon as possible but we have to be guided by the government.
“Social isolation is not easy and we also want the pupils to concentrate on their health and mental well-being as well as on their work.
“Unfortunately, our netball team had qualified for the Scottish final and were due to play next week so that’s disappointing.”
Lessons are continuing online and children of key workers can attend school, while those entitled to free school meals are coming in for those.
The school has been deep-cleaned so many classrooms are closed. Each time a room is used it is cleaned. Contact is kept to a minimum.
Mrs McLean-Gill said: “We’re providing childcare for the whole cluster between 9am and 3pm each day and can have anything from two to six pupils.
“The teaching staff, learning support staff, janitors, cooks are on board offering their time to provide this essential childcare. It’s very much an attitude of we want to help and do everything we can to support the community.
“When the pupils come in, we have to be careful with social distancing and they are kept apart.
“They do online learning which the teachers are sending, play distance games and do art and crafts. We’re keeping them entertained.”
Mrs McLean-Gill said: “We were getting a handful of children in for dinners. The challenge is that, with social distancing, families don’t want to leave the house and come in for a dinner so we’ve organised home deliveries.
“Across the cluster there are more pupils who qualify for free school meals than are having them.
“We’ve sent messages to parents who are entitled but it is up to them whether they come in.”
Families, who receive a council tax reduction, are now eligible for free school meals during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dumfries and Galloway Council has extended its criteria for free school meals. It is calculated that another 600 families can now get free school meals for their children.
The current Scottish government criteria are: income support; jobseeker’s allowance (income-based); employment and support allowance (income-based); child tax credit on its own, with an annual taxable income of less than £16,105; child tax credit and working tax credit with an annual taxable income of less than £6,900; support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999; and universal credit with a monthly earned income of no more than £610.
People can apply for council tax reduction at www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/15162/Housing-benefit
Anyone unable to apply online can email email@example.com or ring 030 33 33 3006 and leave their name and address so someone can call them back.
For delivery or collection of free school meals register at www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/20674/COVID-19-schools-and-childcare
Staff are exceptionally busy but calls will be returned and applications processed as quickly as possible.
Councillor Elaine Murray, council leader, said: “Residents are currently having to deal with extremely challenging circumstances and we’re doing all we can to help and support them through the crisis.
“Extending our criteria for free school meals will reduce the pressures on many families by ensuring their children receive a nutritious meal each day.”