e-Sgoil, our Northern Alliance e-learning school based in Eileanan Siar (the Western Isles) – which we’re lucky enough to have benefited from since it was established in 2016 – is doing an incredible job of extending its offer across Scotland.

More than 3,300 secondary pupils, from all 32 local authority areas across Scotland, are now engaged in its ‘National Offer’. This has meant replicating what e-Sgoil has done previously – engaging with small distinct groups online with a dedicated teacher – on a huge scale.

Head Teacher Angus Maclennan explains: “We are creating learning communities, with young people sharing their thinking with their peers as well as learning from our teaching professionals. It is brilliant to see how well they are getting on and seeing how pupils from across Scotland can support each other in ways we perhaps hadn’t expected.

“It has also been great to support and equip teaching colleagues who perhaps aren’t so familiar with the delivery of learning and teaching online. We have colleagues from Education Scotland, other Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICS) and school-based colleagues working effectively with us. They are rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to creating flipped learning resources and teaching on-line. The level of collaboration going on across organisations and authorities at the moment is hugely significant and bodes well for the future.”

Angus’ team has also been able to step in where pupils and/or staff have had to self-isolate, talking teachers through online set up as well as offering students access to some of e-Sgoil’s own classes.

He added: “I’m really proud of the team and thankful for their efforts in upskilling others, sometimes at short notice and as the need arises. We’re also finding that engagement with colleagues across Scotland has led to us having an even greater impact in terms of equity of access to specialist subjects in Secondary schools. While some areas have a shortage of Gaelic medium teachers, for example, others are a lot better equipped. Through the use of technology, it’s becoming possible to share that teaching resource in order to provide additional courses or emergency cover by subject specialists.”

e-Sgoil has also been building up a programme to support pupils in the event of school closures. They already have teachers ready and willing to be deployed at short notice and are building capacity to support the delivery of the curriculum across Scotland.

Angus added: “There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and we can see the endless possibilities ahead of us in years to come to support schools with these online delivery options. We’re not looking to replace schools – we know all too well there is no substitute for having access to a supportive, tangible learning community, but colleagues’ expertise is ready to be used if and when required and it gives schools more options – particularly when it comes to things like languages – to expand what they can offer directly.”

Kathleen Johnston, Quality Improvement Manager for the Northern Alliance regional improvement collaborative, is very proud of what the e-Sgoil team is achieving. She said: “It is amazing and inspiring to see how e-Sgoil’s small team, who started this digital learning and teaching journey just a few years ago, have expanded. The pandemic has fast-tracked this area of work, along with our many professional learning events and networks going online, and we are pleased that such a wealth of exciting and innovative work going on across the Northern Alliance is being recognised at a national level.”

Find out more about e-Sgoil’s work, what’s on offer to young people at the moment and how you can get involved, on their website: http://www.e-sgoil.com/

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