Local authority vows to re-connect self-isolating pupils ‘smoothly’ via virtual learning platforms

Pupils living in Scotland’s largest geographic council area will be able to continue their learning ‘smoothly’ via a range of online portals if they are asked to self-isolate, it was announced today.

The Highland Council will support and deliver education to any of its pupils who are asked to stay at home by public health officials – in all of its 203 schools across the region.

The local authority is using Google’s G-Suite educational tools to help deliver an education which is ‘engaging and interactive’, the council said as it revealed details of its ‘blended’ approach to learning.

Nicky Grant, Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, said: “We understand that being asked to self-isolate can cause anxiety in our young people and their family’s routine especially having returned to full time education from the 14 August.  However, it is really important to follow Public Health advice in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Therefore, it is important that our schools are able to react with ease and set up and deliver quality continued learning and teaching experiences through our already established online learning platforms. Our aim is that young people can re-connect smoothly with their school community, both teaching staff and friends, and have access to resources to support them during this challenging time.”

She added: “Digital learning is not about streaming a one-way lecture to pupils, it is about using tools and platforms to provide pupils with the opportunity to interact, to engage, and to experience, as they would physically as if they are in their own classroom.”

Highland schools primarily use the tools of G-Suite for Education for the delivery of digital learning. These tools include:

  • Google Classroom makes it easy for schools to create classes, set learning activities and communicate quickly and easily. Pupils are able to submit work back to their teacher via this tool and the teacher can in turn, provide immediate feedback and initiate learning conversations.
  • Google Meet is the safe and secure platform for all pupils and staff to ‘meet’ virtually and engage in learning direction and discussion as well as being a platform for small and large groups to provide pastoral support and guidance.
  • Google Mail is available for pupils in all secondary schools so that they can communicate with their own teachers and staff, as well as with other pupils from across Highland.

Additionally, schools use the Highland Digital Schools Hub as a main source of support during any period of online learning. This site contains a vast bank of resources to support both digital and face to face learning and has already had a large number of visitors from, not only Highland schools, but also from both national and international locations.

The aim for our schools is to find a balance at all times between digital learning and ‘off-line’ learning. Our online tools, outlined above, are to be utilised where there is a benefit in their use such as improving teacher-pupil interaction, increasing engagement in tasks, and accessing support materials. In other instances, it may be more beneficial for a task to be completed offline and uploaded to the system on its completion. This blended approach will help to achieve quality learning experiences and allow flexibility to our pupils, and their families, as they balance their own challenges in the home.

We are continually working to improve our online learning platforms and delivery. Recently, we issued a ‘Learning during Lockdown’ survey to our parents, carers and pupils to gather feedback and their insights on our digital learning during lockdown.

A review of our digital learning will also be discussed at the next meeting of our Education Committee on 30 September.