Remote study: Anger is growing according to the Western Islands plan

More than 150 people have signed a petition amid growing anger over distance education plans in secondary schools in the Western Islands.

The plan, which union leaders say will be implemented without proper consultation, aims to give S4-6 students the opportunity to participate in digital and hybrid classes through the e-Sgoil platform.

However, they fear that this will necessarily be under the supervision of a registered teacher.

The plan is set out in a March 28 letter to parents and guardians. Education leaders have suggested that it will help increase the availability of affordable subjects and address the issue of supply in educational institutions, where small classrooms typically pose a challenge to course availability.

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This procedure is expected to be achieved through the coordination of subject selection forms and schedule tables in all four Western Island secondary schools.

But the local association of the Scottish Institute of Education (EIS) has raised a number of concerns, particularly about a frequently asked question document (FAQ) that claims that students will “benefit from digital and hybrid learning models” with their presence. adult ”in the room during online classes.

The statement said: “As a local association we have always insisted that a registered teacher should be responsible at the receiving school for any online learning.

“This document suggests that the‘ adult ’(any adult?) Will be responsible for the new classes and that upper class students can be completely unsupervised.

“We have serious concerns for the health, safety and protection of children on this aspect of the proposal. There is a disregard for the responsibilities and obligations of students under the law, as well as a serious reduction in the role of professional and registered teachers. ”

The statement also criticized the suggestion that “small groups of students should be online regularly for certain classes”. It adds: “Online learning can be established as an appropriate collaboration and in line with the professional opinion of small class teachers without its actual organization.

“Pedagogical relations should be determined by the teaching staff, not by the staff.”

After the publication of the online petition of EIS members to protest against the plans, the signatures were filled out. At the time of going to the press yesterday, 152 people had added their names.

Members of the local unions said they wanted to continue until the proposals were identified and an agreement reached.

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As the evidence grew that remote and hybrid study approaches became stronger after Covid, the debate began.

In a recent example, a review of Scottish Regional Improvement Partnerships (RICs) found on the Internet that higher opportunities are being expanded in a number of local government areas.

The authors noted that Tayside RIC, which includes the councils of Angus, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross, has set up a virtual campus that offers a range of courses through digital technology. The development meant that by 2021/22, all upper-class students would have access to advanced computer, French and Spanish universities “using distance learning”. The offer included regular live sessions and some group or one-on-one lessons.

The review showed that the online Advanced Highers will also be tested by the Southwest Education Improvement Partnership, which includes the Dumfries & Galloway Council and the East, North and South Ayrshire local authorities.

The Council of Western Islands vehemently rejected EIS criticism of its plan.

The spokesman said: “The issue of establishing a timetable for the coordination of secondary schools in the Western Islands, especially at the senior stage, has been submitted to the council several times in 2019 and has been unanimously agreed upon by the members each time.

“Trying to coordinate schedules and maximize effective learning through face-to-face and digital learning is about providing the widest and fairest choice for our youth wherever they live on the islands. We also have a responsibility to empower young people. equip effective learning in the connected and digital world of the 21st century, including supporting them to access and participate in learning through digital and distance learning. ”

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The spokesman also denied allegations that education leaders failed to conduct the meeting properly. She insisted that in the aftermath of the decision to continue the change, discussions were held with staff, students, parents and parent councils.

“This last element of the process is part of a coordinated transfer approach,” he said. “It’s not new and won’t be released quickly during it [council] election period; rather, it is the result of almost three years of work and the next step in a gradual movement towards full implementation. The duration of the current exercises is determined by the typical process of choosing a secondary subject, which takes place annually from February to May.

“It is also said that this approach is aimed at reducing or reducing the number of staff in rural schools. The reality of the work that has been done in the last three years is that the total number of our staff has increased due to staff capacity.” . to live in the community, but to teach effectively in both face-to-face and remote classes.

“Regarding comments on distance learning and student supervision, it should be made clear that all teaching is conducted by properly registered and subject-qualified teachers, whether face-to-face or distance, as is already common in teaching. digital at the national level. Where a lesson is conducted by a distance teacher, appropriate adults will be available for supervision. ”

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