Speaking after the Education Secretary answered questions on the government's new policy to make mask wearing mandatory in Scottish secondary schools from Monday, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart commented:
"The Education Secretary was slow off the mark with this policy and the reality on the ground has been outpacing his guidance. Schools took the initiative on face coverings between classrooms and on buses before ministers did.
"As we urged last week, it's the right thing to do to introduce face coverings outside the classroom. Teachers, parents and pupils saw an opportunity to make their school day safer.
“As well as clearing up the lingering confusion on face coverings, the Education Secretary must now listen to other pleas including those for more staff and space to increase the capacity for social distancing."
Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart MSP has said face coverings would be a “sensible precaution” on school transport, and questioned the Education Secretary about government advice on the matter.
Speaking virtually in Parliament Ms Wishart said she had been contacted by parents wondering if the right precautions are in place to keep pupils safe and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools. Current guidance says mask are to be worn on public transport, but are not mandatory on dedicated school transport.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart has today said that the Scottish Qualification Authority needs "root and branch reform" to make it fit for purpose after chief executive Fiona Robertson and director of qualifications Dr Gill Stewart appeared before the Scottish Parliament's education committee today
Shetland MSP Beatrice has criticised Transport Scotland for failing to understand the realities of overnight ferry travel and is calling on the Scottish Government ensure that islanders are not hit with unfair travel charges due to coronavirus restrictions.
Northlink Ferries suspended the use of shared cabins due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving passengers who want the use of a cabin forced to pay for the empty beds. Islanders with concessionary travel vouchers that would normally cover the whole cost of their overnight travel in a shared cabin are now faced with an additional £42 “surcharge” for their trip.
Shetland’s MSP, Beatrice Wishart, has again today called on the Scottish Government to prioritise the re-opening of adult day care and respite services, to give families of those with complex needs a break.
Ms Wishart raised this issue two weeks ago, and was promised detail by the First Minister “very soon”. However, the guidance is still pending which prompted Ms Wishart to again ask the First Minister for further clarity ahead of a resumption.
Responding, the First Minister acknowledged the need for resumption, and said that she would ask the Health Secretary to look again at the issue so that services could get up and running as soon as possible.
Commenting as pupils in Scotland receive their exam results today, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said:
"First of all, I would like to say congratulations to everyone receiving results today. You have all worked incredibly hard in circumstances that have never been faced before. You should be very proud of the work that you have put in. We also owe our thanks to all the teachers who have striven to support pupils at this difficult time.
"While some pupils will be rightly celebrating, many more will be deeply disappointed with how the SQA have handled things. We are already seeing pupils, teachers and in some cases, entire classes, complaining that their grades have been dropped dramatically, in many cases turning passes into fails.
"In particular the decision by the SQA to hold back their moderation guidelines until results’ day itself has meant months have been lost in which these guidelines could be scrutinised, understood and if necessary, improved. These are difficult times for any organisation but the SQA's communication with parents, pupils and teachers has been a trainwreck that could have been easily avoided.
"What's more, the reliance on a school's past performance as a guide to moderating results will embed the attainment gap and hurt bright pupils from disadvantaged schools. It appears that the system has been reverse-engineered to get the “right results”.
"Everyone will now be hoping that the appeals process is sufficiently robust to handle the volume of pupils who will now wish to challenge their results."
Ahead of the publication of exam results next Tuesday, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today warned the Education Secretary about teacher and student anxiety over “unexpected, upsetting or unfair” exam results, as it is revealed schools and colleges have been excluded from the moderation process because of time constraints.
In correspondence with the Education Committee the Scottish Government acknowledged that the SQA has not, as requested by the Committee, been able to engage with schools and colleges in the moderation process, stating:
“There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the difficulty of operating a dialogue which is fair and consistent in its treatment of all centres and candidates. Secondly, it is not possible to enter into a dialogue in the very tight timescales we are working to…”
Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the announcement that a new support fund will be set up to provide help the self-catering businesses who have not yet been given any form of government support.
The new fund will provide grants to self-catering businesses in Scotland with grants of £10,000 to those who have been ineligible so far. This has been announced alongside a support scheme for larger hotels.
Ms Wishart has, alongside colleagues, been petitioning the Scottish Government to recognise the many individuals who, for various reasons, have been deemed ineligible for help with their self-catering businesses during the pandemic.
Shetland’s MSP, Beatrice Wishart, has today pressed the First Minister on the re-opening of adult day care and respite services, following reports that their re-opening has been stalled.
After months of bearing the full burden of care for adults with complex needs, and despite the Scottish Government’s acceptance that services should be able to resume, families are still not able to access the support they need.
Ms Wishart noted that one constituent had told her that “we always get left behind”.
Northern Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP, have today welcomed the announcement of a £100m funding agreement for the Islands Growth Deal, covering both the Northern Isles and the Western Isles and funded equally between the UK and Scottish governments.
The deal represents an award of almost three-times the per capita figure based on other Scottish growth deals. Discussions will now continue towards agreeing a Heads of Terms later this year, along with more detail on the transformational projects which will be funded.