Aberdeenshire Council’s education chief said the “contingency” plans for returning to school with “blended learning” will be of “great benefit” now that home schooling will be the norm until the end of the month at the earliest.
Following announcements on new Covid restrictions by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week, schools across Scotland will be shut to the majority of pupils until at the start of February – although this could be extended.
Pupils across the country, who have already had to deal with months of online learning earlier in the pandemic, will once again have to continue their education outside of the classroom due to the virus.
Prior to schools re-opening last August, teachers and councils across the country had been planning on using a “blended model” of learning, which would have combined part-time study at school with some education at home.
However, the decision was made in June by the Scottish Government that children could return to classrooms full-time instead from August.
On June 26 last year, Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services director Laurence Findlay told the Press and Journal: “The work that schools have done and all the preparation putting plans in place has not gone to waste, as of course they may still be needed if there’s any future spike or closure required as a result of Covid-19.”
And now, almost seven months later with the pandemic once again causing a major impact across Scotland, Mr Findlay said the result of the hard work by teaching staff and schools will now be of use.
He said: “The great deal of detail which went into schools’ contingency planning last summer has continued to be developed and will be of great benefit to leadership teams as they develop learning plans for the weeks ahead.
“Online learning takes a variety of forms and it will be great to see children and young people benefiting from this from next week.”
Mr Findlay said Aberdeenshire Council has “hugely expanded the number of laptops, tablets and dongles available to young people”, to help ensure as many pupils as possible have access to online learning.
He added: “As we begin the new term we are working hard to ensure children and young people, as well as their families and school staff, are given the support they need.
“A range of services are playing their part in this and, in addition to school staff who will be leading learning and teaching for those keyworker and vulnerable children in school as well as delivering online learning opportunities for those at home.
“This includes our educational psychology service who are once again making a phoneline available to parents, and a variety of other services including youth work once again making online activity engagement possible, supported by our digital learning team.
“The commitment and dedication of so many colleagues – regardless of the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic – should not be underestimated.
“Places for the children of keyworkers in school are being made available on the basis of national guidance and we would encourage everyone who can keep their children at home to do so.”
He added: “For those in their senior phase, we await further guidance from the SQA in relation to ongoing assessment and schools will ensure families are updated at the earliest possible opportunity.”