A Scottish local authority announced details of its blended learning contingency arrangements – which will see large numbers of pupils learning from home using tech hardware and applications.

Scottish Borders council will move to the part school, part home-learning model if required as a result of further COVID-19 restrictions on education.

This is in line with Scottish Government guidance, and follows the full return of children and young people to Early Years facilities and schools in mid-August; today’s announcement was not linked to further lockdown restrictions announced by the Scottish and UK Governments

The plans, which have been in place for some time, have been developed around a requirement for social distancing between pupils which would significantly reduce capacity in schools.

Tracey Logan, Chief Executive, said: “Of course we all hope these plans will not be required, but we must ensure that parents and pupils are aware of these ‘Plan B’ arrangements just in case.

“It is crucial to emphasise that the exact circumstances which would necessitate the implementation of these arrangements in a single school, a school cluster, or across the whole Scottish Borders are not known.

“It has been an extremely challenging task to produce these plans, with our focus throughout being on the continued delivery of safe learning in-school for pupils and staff and a home-learning offer that provides a continuation of pupils’ current curriculum. This blended learning model would support the learning needs of every pupil and continue to help them to achieve their learning targets.

“These plans maximise our capacity, both in respect of school buildings and current staff resources, but with a strict social distancing requirement of any kind it would not be possible to have every pupil in every day of the week.

“The opportunities our Inspire Learning programme provides will be vital in supporting and delivering high quality in-school and home-learning in any blended arrangement, and we are delighted to be able to further accelerate this programme for P4 pupils this autumn.”

The Inspire Learning programme is funded directly by the council – with leadership board oversight – and is chaired by the chief executive. A project manager and project team is in place working with technology partners, CGI, XMA and Apple, and schools to deliver the programme, whose aim is to ‘build a world-class digital learning environment in Scottish Borders schools.’

The Inspire Learning Programme rolled out to all secondary schools and pupils in P6-7 over the summer break; Apple iPad devices, which will be used by all teachers and pupils in P6-7 and young people who’ve just moved up to S1, were delivered directly to pupils’ houses.

Over 96% of young people are accessing learning resources and experiences through the programme with nearly 6,300 pupils in possession of an iPad and a suite of the most up-to-date learning tools.

The roll-out of the programme was accelerated so it could be completed before the COVID-19 lockdown as the global outbreak reached Scotland.

This made SBC the first local authority in the UK to deliver such a programme of change to every secondary student and allowed teachers to deliver dynamic lessons as pupils studied remotely from home.