Merkinch Primary school is the hub for Highland's first ever online Festival of Reading

A teacher at an Inverness Primary school has set up the region’s first ever online Festival of Reading in a bid to enhance digital literacy across the region’s schools.

The Merkinch Reading Festival is the brainchild of teacher Niall Ridgway, who came up with the idea after watching a number of online music festivals. These were broadcast as a replacement for the live events which were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The event, which is to be live streamed using a live steaming function within the Google Meet (video conferencing) software, can accommodate 100,000 viewers.

The Festival is a celebration of reading and learning and takes place online today (Friday 5 June) between 10am and 5pm.

Thanks to hard work behind the scenes by Highland’s Digital Development Team, which includes Head Teachers Tania Mackie and Robert Quigley, the live stream function has now been made available to all Highland schools. Highland is one of the only areas in Scotland with this functionality.

Previously Google Meet’s own video conferencing element only allowed up to 250 people to be logged in at once, but due to the streaming function within the software, the school is able to open up the festival to all schools in Highland.

The teacher behind the idea, Niall Ridgway, said: “The Merkinch Reading Festival marks a huge step in the development of digital literacy across Highland Council schools as well as within Merkinch Primary.

“Twenty-one members of staff at Merkinch will read stories or extracts from their favourite books, with the majority of these stories being shared via the e-book format. This supports all learners to clearly see the books, read along, and enjoy the images. Let's celebrate reading!”

He added: “Teachers in Highland enjoy a daily drop in video call and I mentioned the idea during one of those and it just took off from there.”

The event will be live streamed live. You will need to log on using Chrome and use a Highland Schools account.

Head of Education Services Nicky Grant, said: “Niall’s very exciting Reading Festival will  build on the current interest in live streaming, which offers additional  potential for presenting to larger than normal audiences, as young people and staff return to School in August.”

Chairman of the Education Committee, Cllr John Finlayson, said: “Once again I am delighted to see the innovative approaches being promoted across the Highlands to develop online learning and provide access to a wide audience and I would like to thank everyone involved.”

5 Jun 2020