Learning During Lockdown – How Highland Council’s schools are benefiting from advanced online teaching tools

Tania Mackie
Ben Wyvis Primary Head Teacher Tania Mackie

School pupils across The Highland Council have been benefiting from an innovative approach to Teaching and learning which has made the transition to home learning smoother for all.

Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to school closures since March, but that has not stopped Highland pupils from learning remotely during lockdown.

A daily programme of professional learning for all staff is in place and there has been an increasing engagement with G-Suite for Education as a platform.

G-Suite is a free collection of productivity tools offered by technology company Google and includes Google Docs, Gmail, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Hangouts and many more.

Members of the Education Improvement Team have been leading on this innovation including: Tania Mackie, Head Teacher at Ben Wyvis Primary and Milton of Leys Primary (Inverness) Head Teacher Robert Quigley.

Both have featured in the Highland Council’s new video which shines a spotlight on the work being done to ensure children continue to receive a quality education experience during lockdown.

Tania Mackie said: “Communication has been key. One of the ways we are supporting staff across Highland is through networks. These networks are formed using Google Classroom, we are connecting teaching together by using ICT platforms to collaborate and share good practice across all key stages and subject areas.

“We’re seeing this as an interim solution but equally one which could change education in the future. For some time now we have been discussing and planning networks of principal teachers, depute heads, head teachers, sharing of resource and now we are actually seeing this happen.”

The Highland Digital Schools Hub was a way for pupils, parents and staff to be able to engage in a variety of different resources and learner experiences to help them through this period of home learning. A number of different resources, at each different Curriculum for Excellence Level and subject specific level, have been added to the hub.

Head of Education Nicky Grant said: “The manner and means in which the resources have been produced and shared across all 204 of our Highland Schools has been incredible. Our priority at this time in line with Government Expectations; is first and foremost the wellbeing of our pupils, staff and community as well as delivering Quality Learning and Teaching in both Numeracy and Literacy.

“I am extremely grateful for the support of the central team and our staff and parental community in grasping the digital landscape for today and for the future of our young people.”

Chair of the Education Committee, Cllr John Finlayson also acknowledged the positive things happening across schools as part of the current virtual learning agenda and he said: “I have been very impressed by how the staff in schools both teaching and non-teaching, with support from the central team, have moved digital learning forward including not only upskilling pupils but also themselves.

"What is happening across Highland schools is I know, viewed favourably at national level and I would like to thank all staff for their hard work and input which  is appreciated by both pupils and parents.”

A short video has been created to highlight some of the work going on across Highland – Learning During Lockdown

High Life Highland has also been uploading resources to the Highland Digital Schools Hub, including fitness videos for young people, to help them keep physically fit during lockdown.

Steve Walsh Chief Executive of High Life Highland said: “It is great to see the hard work put in by our fitness instructors mirroring that of our music instructors in helping our partners The Highland Council to lead the way with technology and innovation to provide classes online for pupils to help them keep physically fit during lockdown.”

7 May 2020
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