The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
School head plans to open full-time to all pupils by August
The head of Scotland’s national school for children with motor impairments plans to open full-time to all pupils by August, and believes some schools for complex needs pupils need not have closed during lockdown.
Craighalbert Centre chief executive officer Bob Fraser said as it scaled back, rather than fully closing, the school now has a model in place for being open fulltime for all pupils by around August 13.
Families said having the school in Cumbernauld open throughout the coronavirus crisis has helped prevent their children’s progress from backsliding, with one mother saying it was a “lifeline”.
To accommodate the social distancing needed – with classes having changed to one-to-one support – the school made adaptations, including extended use of outdoor classroom and therapy space and buying equipment to provide virtual story massage lessons through videoconferencing for shielding pupils and families.
Mr Fraser told the PA news agency: “For many schools, the challenge now is to reopen and what is their model for reopening?
“Our advantage was we never closed. We geared down, significantly, while we tried to learn and understand but because we had complex needs children there was never the requirement for us to stop providing services.”
Asked if other schools could learn from the actions taken, he said Craighalbert is in a “very different situation” from mainstream education, but added: “I think there’s more learning for other special schools. Perhaps more of them could have kept going in a limited way.” The school is at a “huge advantage” in adapting as classes tend to have no more than six pupils to one staff member, he said, but the “biggest blockage” is staff childcare due to mainstream schools not planning to go back full-time when they return in August.
Mr Fraser said the plans in various council areas are “very fragmented” and to solve this, he will run a childcare hub for his staff.
Being able to remain open has made a “significant difference” in physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing for pupils, he believes.
If they had faced months unable to used specialised technology available at the
“Our advantage was we never closed... we geared down”
centre such as the eye gaze machine – which allows pupils to communicate via a computer using eye movement – as well as the other therapy equipment, their “learning would have regressed”, he said.
“Being away from that (equipment) for months, children’s ability to engage would deteriorate. We’ve maintained that.
“We’ve maintained their physical health, not just in terms of their physiotherapy, their movement things and like that... the risk with many of our children because of their mobility is chest infections, so we were very conscious that we wanted to mitigate against our children going into hospital.
“Probably equally the biggest factor is their emotional and psychological wellbeing and the impact on families.”