New Partnership Offer to Improve Availability of Online Learning Across Scotland

New support announced today (Thursday 25 June) will increase the availability of online learning across different subjects and support digital inclusion across Scotland.

Education Scotland will expand its close working with e-Sgoil, who will train a number of additional teachers from local authorities to provide online lessons which learners in the senior phase across Scotland can access via Glow. These online lessons will help to support and augment the work of classroom teachers across the country in their local arrangements for schools reopening on 11 August and also for reinforcing learning.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney outlined the partnership offer to develop a strong national e-learning provision in his update to Parliament on Tuesday 23 June. Under the plans, developed in partnership by e-Sgoil, Education Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and Scottish Government, all local authorities and schools in Scotland will be able to access live lessons on a range of subjects, and will take shared ownership for delivering these.

A rich and varied range of lessons will be taught live by these experienced and qualified educators, all with national safeguarding checks, and will be recorded to ensure that pupils have further opportunities to learn. This will increase the availability of learning opportunities for pupils, with a focus initially on lessons to help those following national qualification courses in the senior phase. Partners are working to ensure that a wide range of certificated courses in both English and Gaelic medium education will be available to learners in the senior phase from 11 August 2020.

Since the school closures Education Scotland, the national improvement agency for education, has been working closely with local authorities, teachers and parents to support the education system in a number of ways.  This includes creating a well-received online resource bank of learning activities aimed at a variety of ages, introducing new newsletters for parents and educators, and delivering a range of very popular webinars and support sessions for practitioners to support young people to continue with their learning and make progress.  

E-Sgoil was established in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in 2016 to provide a wider and more equitable choice of subjects for pupils, to support the expansion of Gaelic medium education and develop a network of staff who are able to deliver online learning in all subject areas throughout Scotland.  During the current term and school closures, e-Sgoil extended its offer to schools across Scotland and many learners benefited.  This new offer will build further on that development, involving more local authorities, schools and teachers.

Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector and Chief Executive of Education Scotland, said:

“Education Scotland will play an integral role in the national plan published by the First Minister to reopen Scotland’s schools, and we have been working closely with our partners to consider the best ways to help support continuity in young people’s learning in Term 4 and the new session ahead.

“The development we have announced with our partners today offers a coordinated online approach to supporting all local authorities and schools with opportunities to learn at home and, as the Deputy First Minister stated in his update to Parliament, will deliver a strong national e-learning provision. This will ensure that a range of high quality online lessons is available on a national basis to support in-home learning in the senior phase and to complement schools’ and teachers’ own local arrangements for young people.

“Learners will be able to access this e-learning via Glow, our online learning environment, which continues to support learning outside of the classroom by enabling learners and teachers to access tools and features at any time, on any device with an internet connection.”

Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education and Children’s Services, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “eSgoil, over recent weeks, has expanded its provision and is currently supporting approximately 3,500 students.  The opportunity to work with all Scottish Local Authorities, Education Scotland, Scottish Government and partners to provide a national on-line school will enable eSgoil to deliver, across a wide range of subjects, a more comprehensive curriculum and accreditation offer at both Primary and Secondary School level.  eSgoil will continue to support and complement Local Authorities to provide a more flexible and personalised curriculum offer for learners.  I am confident that this approach to learning will become a permanent feature of Scottish Education.”

Carrie Lindsay, Executive Director for Education & Children’s Services, Fife Council and President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) said: “ADES is delighted to be able to lead on a National offer of e-learning to support our learners across Scotland as schools reopen from August. Working in partnership with Education Scotland and Scottish Government will allow access to resources to scale up the existing esgoil and SCHOLAR offer for the benefit of our children and young people.

“It's good to see the pioneering work that started in our island communities be able to support our work across Scotland, Esgoil has worked well in the more remote and Northerly parts of Scotland, it now has the opportunity to support far beyond any geographical parameters.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said:

“While the clear ambition and intention is to see all pupils return to school full-time in August, blended learning is a contingency that we may still need to enact. The new national e-learning provision from eSgoil and Education Scotland will enable pupils in the senior phase to access a broad range of high quality lessons devised by qualified teachers trained in online learning.

“These new online lessons – as well as the 70,000 laptops we are giving to children and young people who need them the most – will help to support and augment the work being done by classroom teachers across the country.”

Dr Bill Beveridge, Director of SCHOLAR, said: “Using an approach refined through their years’ of experience in supporting remote learners, e-Sgoil have demonstrated just how effectively, with access to high-quality online course materials, a thriving online learning community can be created. The techniques they have developed allow young people to take full advantage of the benefits that digital learning technology can bring whilst also placing a high premium on the importance of developing and maintaining supportive teacher-learner relationships.”

[SCHOLAR is the not-for-profit partnership between the Association of Directors of Education for Scotland and Heriot-Watt University that provides online learning resources to support blended and independent learning for over 150,000 learners attending schools and colleges throughout Scotland.]

Fhiona Mackay, Director of SCILT, Scotland’s National centre for Languages, said: “Working with e-Sgoil over the period of school closure has given SCILT the unique opportunity to support the learning of thousands of youngsters across the country from P1-S6.  We’ve been able to provide them with high quality real time teaching that has either supported the work provided by their schools or encouraged them to use the time to learn a new, lesser-taught language that wouldn’t otherwise have been offered to them. It has been a very positive and rewarding experience, giving SCILT staff a new set of skills that we can share with the profession and a much deeper understanding of how effective online teaching can be.”

Daniel Barrie, Education and Learning Manager at Keep Scotland Beautiful, commented: “Lockdown has led us to completely transform our environmental education programmes and we have been delighted to work with E-Sgoil and other partner organisations to deliver online, real time, interactive teaching courses directly to young people and teachers across the country. We have been thrilled with the positive response and uptake for the courses we offered during term four. We look forward to building on this and supporting the return to school.

“As we ease out of lockdown, environmental education has never been more important and we are keen to enable young people to understand the importance of climate change and the ways in which they can contribute towards a green recovery.”