John Swinney has insisted that “no young person” will be left behind or struggle to access digital technology as Holyrood considers the introduction of blended learning techniques.
The Education Secretary said that digital access for students will remain a “fundamental aspect” of education in Scotland and revealed that blended learning is still being considered by the Scottish Government.
“We know that the effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting, and individual circumstances mean not every family will have had access to such technology, but we will ensure that no young person is left behind,” he said.
“We are investing £30 million as part of a huge digital boost through the provision of laptops, tablets and connectivity solutions for disadvantaged children and young people, which includes £25 million to enable a rollout of digital devices to school pupils to enable them to study online,” Swinney added.
In the coming months, around 70,000 electronic devices and 18,000 assorted “connectivity solutions” will be given to children and young people across Scotland, Swinney said.
The Education Secretary outlined the plans as the Digital Schools Awards initiative announced the incorporation of blended learning into its national programme.
Blended learning is the concept of integrating classroom teaching practices with remote learning. This model, it is said, provides teachers with greater flexibility and encourages them to explore different concepts such as outdoor education or independent learning.
Schools across Scotland were re-opened in August. However, initial plans for blended learning prompted a backlash from parents across the country.
The coronavirus pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge for education leaders around the world as governments scrambled to identify the most effective ways to deliver learning programmes.
Covid-19 has also led to a shift in attitudes towards teaching practices, and in the new academic year is it anticipated that more schools will combine traditional face-to-face learning with virtual environments.
“We are grateful to councils and teachers for their hard work on a blended learning model and that remains a necessary contingency plan should the virus get out of control again at any point,” Swinney commented.
“The addition of blended learning to the digital schools award framework will help to give schools recognition for the hard work they have been doing and will continue to do during this time,” he added.
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Anna Doody, Programme Manager at Digital School Awards, said blended learning could be the key to ensuring young people are still learning in the event of a second wave.
“We see blended learning playing a crucial role in education moving forward,” she said.
“Our programme was established with the sole objective of supporting schools in the fast-developing world of digital technologies. Recent developments have shown that digital skills are not only beneficial but essential to modern education,” Doody added.
The addition of blended learning techniques to the initiative’s programme will also help schools review their current digital learning and teaching practices, she noted.