What inspection of remote learning means for schools

Inspectors are to assess the quality of remote learning in Scotland, with 5 per cent of schools to be sampled

Henry Hepburn

Coronavirus school closures: How online learning will be assessed

Details have emerged of how school inspectors will assess the quality of remote learning during Scotland's coronavirus lockdown.

Education secretary John Swinney announced on Wednesday that inspectors would start to evaluate remote learning "immediately", and would initially look at "local authority planning and guidance".

However, they will quickly move on to scrutinising what a sample of schools are offering in the way of remote learning, starting from Monday 18 January.

Now, it has emerged that, while these will not be officially classified as inspections, staff in around 5 per cent of schools will be involved, with inspectors planning to hold conversations – predominantly with school leaders  of up to 45 minutes.

Also today: 'Tall order' for 1 February return of pupils

Quick read: Fears over ‘Big Brother’ remote-learning inspections

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In a document entitled Supporting the quality and effectiveness of the delivery of remote learning, inspection and curriculum development body Education Scotland explains that it has this week already started evaluating what local authorities have been doing while schools have been closed to most pupils this month.

Coronavirus: How schools' remote learning will be assessed

On Monday 18 January inspectors will move on to schools, and Education Scotland says it is "crucial that we also gather views from learners and parents". All evidence will then be brought together in the publication of a "national overview report" on remote learning, on Friday 29 January.

The new Education Scotland document sets out principles for its "engagement with schools", promising that this "will be undertaken in a way that seeks to minimise burden and supports and enhances approaches to providing high-quality learning experiences".

The "key principles" in relation to the scrutiny of schools' remote-learning arrangements are:

  • Inspectors will "engage with a 5 per cent sample of schools in all local authorities", drawn from primary, secondary and special schools. Schools will be agreed in advance with local authorities.
  • This will happen online or by telephone and will last between 30 and 45 minutes.
  •  The Education Scotland document also states: "There will be no ask of schools to provide anything, including documentation in advance or as part of the discussion."

  • The process will comprise "professional dialogue and reflection with school leaders and, if possible, practitioners".
  • The three areas that will be covered in conversations with schools are: "what is working in your own context?"; "what are your concerns and any challenges?"; and "what further support do you need?"
  • The document states: "There will be no direct observation of learning episodes or lesson delivery." 
  • The process "is not an inspection of an individual school and there will be no grading or individual school report".
  • Evidence gathered "will be collated into one national overview report".
  • The document also states: "Where effective practice is identified, [school inspectors] will work with the school and local authority to capture this and share it more widely."

Earlier today, Mr Swinney indicated that the 1 February target date for the full return of pupils to school buildings looked like a "tall order".

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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