MUM-OF-THREE Louise MacGregor candidly sums up the homeschooling experience of thousands of parents and children across the country in one word: “Hell”.

A staggered return to the classroom is due to begin next week but even if all schools are fully re-opened before Easter, pupils will have lost the equivalent of around four months of schooling, according to a new report from the Commission on School Reform.

The think tank said pupils would need eight extra hours of tuition a week for two years to make up lost time and has called on the Scottish Government to begin urgently planning for catch up.

However while those who are battling on the home front agree help is required, not all share the view that catching up on the curriculum is the priority.

“This hasn’t been easy at all for anybody but that report alarmed a lot of us,” said Margaret Wilson, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland. “I am a working mum-of-three so it has been incredibly challenging but a lot of us don’t see it as lost education as there have been loads of things that have worked with remote learning.”

She said that while there was no doubt that some pupils would have fallen behind in some areas, parents were more concerned about the effect homeschooling was having on their relationship with their children and their children’s mental health.

“It is the isolation that is affecting children most and I think that has been lost in all this,” she said. “When they do go back they will need mental health and wellbeing support.

“We also have parents who have never asked for help but need it now – they need to know what support is available for them for their mental health and wellbeing. They are doing an amazing job but it is really hard.”

MacGregor, from West Linton in the Scottish Borders, said that although this second lockdown was slightly easier than the first because the remote learning was better organised, it was still “hell”.

Her 19-year-old son Gregor has left school but her elder daughter Lara is still in sixth year while her youngest child, Lillie, is in Primary 7.

MacGregor said she was particularly anxious about Lillie who has dyslexia. “I was worried about her transition to high school anyway but now I am really worried,” she said. “By the time we have done the basics she has had enough for the day. Maths, some spelling and literacy can easily take us three or four hours – the day just disappears and you have hardly done anything.

“They are set up on their iPads now but it is still hard to find the right bits and pieces. We found it a nightmare so one of the teachers suggested they could print out some of the work.

“We tried that but it was even more stressful because then you are going through reams of paper to find out what you are meant to do and when you finally get to the wee bit of work that is for her you still can’t do it.

“We don’t know the right way to teach her and then she gets all confused.”

MACGREGOR, who has asthma, has now had the vaccine and will be able to start work again as a childminder from next Monday but is wondering how she will cope.

“It is stressing me out because how can I look after other people’s children under five and give Lillie the support she needs?”

Fortunately, Lara is able to get on with her work on her own but MacGregor said it was growing harder each week to keep children’s spirits up. “They are missing their teachers and their friends. You wonder how much it has affected them because they have had so

much to deal with,” she said. “However as much as I am saying they are struggling the teachers are doing an amazing job. It’s just hard for everyone.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said the proposal to give pupils an extra eight hours schooling each week was “very radical” and would be hard for many families to accommodate.

“We do recognise, however, the need to look at bold ideas and, while local authorities determine the length of the school day, there is an interesting debate to be had around how best to help tackle the impacts of Covid,” said the spokesperson.

“We know that Covid is affecting the learning of all children and young people. That is why we have invested over £200 million in education recovery since the start of the pandemic, which has led to an additional 1400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed.

“In 2021 we will invest a further £127m in pupil equity funding to support learners from disadvantaged circumstances and a further £30m for schools to cope with the ongoing effects of Covid.”