WE put a call out for your questions about how Glasgow's schools are adapting to the coronavirus crisis.

The response was overwhelming with queries coming in from parents and pupils - and giving us too many to ask.

So we've identified the main themes from your questions and put them to the city's executive director of education Maureen McKenna.

Here's what she had to say.


YOU ASKED: I am very concerned about the potential for the attainment gap between the least disadvantaged and the most disadvantaged widening. Are schools working to stop the attainment gap widening?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "I too am very concerned about the potential for the attainment gap between the least disadvantaged and the most disadvantaged widening.

"Many of our families through no fault of their own do not have the capacity to support their child’s learning.

"Some do not have access to IT or wifi and although our iPad roll-out has assisted, it was part of a three year planned programme so not everyone has access yet.

"In addition, broadband would be required in order to maximise the impact of digital learning.

"Our schools will continue to work with their families during the closures, offering support and advice, learning plans and where appropriate, resources for learning at home.

"We are already starting to think about our ‘recovery phase’, that is, how we support our children and young people back to school. However, we need a timescale and at this point we don’t have one as it is dependent on government advice.

"Parents should be assured that we are very aware of this as an issue and are committed to ensuring that all our children and young people continue to improve and achieve their potential regardless of their circumstances."


YOU ASKED: How are schools helping parents who have English as a second language?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "Officers from our English as an Additional Language team are publishing information and advice as part of the Home Times weekly features to help families.

"This includes one teacher working on a film of her doing activities with her own children in Polish.

"School staff have sent home ideas and activities that children can do at home, so they won't all rely on having internet access as we know this will be a barrier for some families."


YOU ASKED: Are there any plans to speed up the iPad roll out so that all children in the city have them?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "Our iPad roll-out has helped improve children’s access to digital learning.

"However, we have a three-year plan for this. It was carefully thought out so that we built support and training into it and didn’t just issue the iPads.

"Indeed, at the time we launched, there were some who criticised on social media that issuing iPads was the wrong thing to do – and now it is being suggested that we speed up the roll-out.

"We are considering whether we can speed up the roll-out. However, we were clear from the outset that digital learning had to be supported with appropriate training.

"The current situation limits our ability to deliver training and, indeed, to issue iPads at scale."


YOU ASKED: A lot of parents expressed concern that the supports from different schools vary across the city. What can be done about this?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "When we became aware that the schools were going to close, we issued advice to all schools and nurseries in advance of the final closure decision about the importance of staying connected, particularly with vulnerable families.

"We were never going to be able to have a one-size fits all approach as each headteacher and their staff know their families and know which families would benefit the most from contact.

"We also have to be sensitive to teachers who have been advised to work from home and the problems this brings along with the practicalities of contacting families.

"If the national advice continues to be that people should stay at home after the spring break then we will need to consider how we continue to maintain contact with families safely across the city.

"Updated guidance advising caution on the use of Zoom has been well reported and the council IT service is looking at possible video conferencing solutions that we could safely signpost to schools and families."


YOU ASKED: How are parents working at home meant to do anything other than their work? If possible could schools be opened for universal Out of School care?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "I understand and am sympathetic to parents who are working from home and have young children too.

"However, there is no expectation that they re-create school in the house. There needs to be a balance maintained and do what’s right for your family/work circumstances.

"I would suggest that for primary-aged children a timetable is created so that parents and children know what they are going to do and when.

"It doesn’t have to be complicated but it would give a routine to the day which families would find helpful.

"The timetable should be varied and should build in plenty of breaks and time for play – remembering that play is also learning.

"The national advice is currently to stay at home and to reduce social contact.

"Opening the schools for universal out of school care would go completely against that advice."


YOU ASKED: Will we still find out about placing requests?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "In Glasgow, we are planning to issue the placing request letters by the end of April in line with the legislation and as we would do every year.

"However, parents need to be aware that the due to the current situation with COVID-19 the council has taken the decision to cancel all face to face meetings and committees.

"Committee Services will continue to gather in appeals where parents submit them but parents should be aware that, unlike in previous years, it is unlikely that the Appeal Committee will hear appeals in June."


YOU ASKED: Why aren’t the school kids getting told more about what the plan is? Have you been telling us the truth about when we go back?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "I am sorry that I cannot be clearer about when we are going to open the schools again – we have tried to be open and honest throughout this whole process – sometimes having to take decisions really quickly and I know this has caused stress to our children and families.

"But we need government advice on this. I know that the government is as keen as we are to get children and young people back to school but this must be done safely."


YOU ASKED: Are parents still having to pay council nursery fees?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "We are not charging for parents’ places in GCC settings whether taken up as a key worker, not available due to closure, or the place is not being taken up."


YOU ASKED: Many children with additional needs are struggling and showing signs of regression, can anything be put in place for them?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "I’m really sorry to hear this. There has been some support provided for children and young people with complex learning needs in consultation with their families.

"This all needs to be done safely – a number of children with additional support needs have underlying health conditions and rightly, their parents are keeping them at home.

"We are working with our social work colleagues and our headteachers to continue to review what support can be offered while adhering to the current government advice."


YOU ASKED: There were dozens of questions about transition and we put them all to Maureen.

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "Transition planning is really important. Children and young people need to feel secure and confident about where they are going to learn.

"In normal circumstances, there will be visits planned during the summer term to enable children and young people to get to know their new school and their new classmates.

"For some children who have additional support needs or are just anxious about change, schools and nurseries plan more visits, sometimes just on their own with a trusted member of staff to walk around the new building to help them be less anxious ahead of an August start.

"This year, all those plans have not been able to be made and I know that school staff across the city share the concerns of the people who have written in.

"There is no simple response to this because, again, it is dependent on government advice. What I can say is that it will be different this year and we will need to consider the needs of our children carefully.

"Some of the options might be more of a ‘soft start’ to primary 1, that is, having a few weeks where the children come in for the morning only as we have done in previous years.

"However, some working parents may find that challenging. We might consider activities through the summer – this would be dependent on having the staff as teachers would be on holiday then.

"We are actively thinking about this and considering different scenarios dependent on government advice and will let our families know as soon as we have the information.

"I was delighted to see one school post a ‘virtual school tour’ on their twitter account for the new Primary 1s due to start in August.

"This is something that other schools might want to adopt and something we will add to the planning list."


YOU ASKED: Have high schools been told not to collect any more 'evidence' for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher students?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "I wrote a letter to all families last week with children due to sit exams this year and following the updated SQA advice last Thursday, April 2.

"We’ve posted it online and schools have texted the link out to families here."

YOU ASKED: If you have a child who won't engage with the work, are teachers going to do anything about it?


MAUREEN ANSWERED: "Please be reassured that our teachers know their young people – estimates will not be based on one source of evidence.

"Teachers will take into consideration everything they know about the young person as a learner."


YOU ASKED: What mental health provision will be put in place to help children through this?

MAUREEN ANSWERED: "A number of our schools already have counselling in place through third sector providers and this is continuing, mainly through phone contact.

"We have also engaged with Big White Wall.

"Our educational psychologists are part of the Glasgow Times special advisers and will publish updated information on how to speak to children and young people who are understandably anxious and worried…and even angry about the situation at the moment.

"Our schools have also been signposting to online resources including the Young Scot website that’s got some very good advice.

"For physical wellbeing, we encourage community access to our pitches wherever possible in normal times.

"Families should feel free to use school playgrounds/pitches/parks where they are open.

"However, government advice is currently to stay at home and to reduce contact with others and only going out once a day in their family groupings to exercise."