The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

School head plans to open full-time to all pupils by Au­gust

- BY LAURA PATER­SON Society · Education · Parenting · Family · Cumbernauld

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.”

 ??  ?? WORK­FORCE: About 4,500 jobs have been lost in the UK North Sea
WORK­FORCE: About 4,500 jobs have been lost in the UK North Sea
 ??  ?? Oliver Cun­ning­ham with spe­cial­ist phys­io­ther­a­pist Leah Hono­han
Oliver Cun­ning­ham with spe­cial­ist phys­io­ther­a­pist Leah Hono­han

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