This week's Community Column is written by the Helensburgh and Lomond area's constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’M sure that teachers, parents and pupils will agree that the school term just finished has been by far one of the strangest ever.

Exams that pupils had been building up to for years were cancelled, school trips and events were postponed and many pupils missed out on important milestones within their school careers such as the transition from primary to secondary and from secondary to college, university and working life.

The challenge presented to schools when John Swinney announced that all schools would close in March was not one for which anyone was really prepared.

Teachers had to come up with plans to ensure that their pupils were not only given vital academic support, and that pastoral care, albeit at a distance, was available too.

READ MORE: We'll be ready for August return, says Hermitage Academy head teacher

Keeping students focused and engaged becomes much more difficult when you can’t see them in person. I think that our teachers have tried to make the very best of an awful situation and their students are lucky to have them.

And let’s not forget the parents who suddenly became teachers too. Overnight, parents were given the responsibility of home schooling their children – many of whom have more than one child and at different stages of learning.

Parents had to balance their new role whilst either working from home themselves or whilst navigating furlough, redundancy and huge financial uncertainty.

It is concerning that overall attainment is likely to have fallen and the attainment gap has got wider as a result. So the announcement that pupils will be returning to the classroom full-time in August is welcome.

Described by one of my colleagues as “the mother and father of all U-turns”, the Scottish Government changed its position following intense lobbying by parents.

READ MORE: Opinion: Back to school anger of parents and staff is understandable, says Ruth Wishart

They only had one plan – and that was for councils to provide a blended model of learning with pupils returning to the classroom part-time. And without additional resources the councils could not do their job effectively.

John Swinney’s end of term report from the First Minister was clearly that he "must try harder".

There remains much work to do to prepare, from taking safety precautions in school to arranging school transport. All of these things will bring challenges. None of this can be done on the cheap.

Our schools need the resources from government to deliver and to do so safely. And our teachers and pupils deserve nothing less.

READ MORE: Click here for all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond