School inspectors in Scotland are to start assessing the quality of remote learning "immediately", education secretary John Swinney announced today.
He also announced details of funding to help schools and families with remote learning during the latest coronavirus lockdown.
Here are the key points you need to know from his statement to the Scottish Parliament:
1. Remote-learning evaluations to begin straight away
Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that "a programme of national overviews will commence immediately and last for the duration of remote learning", which will evaluate "what is working well and where further improvement is required".
2. Scrutiny at local authority level first
The education secretary said that Education Scotland inspectors are this week evaluating "local authority planning and guidance on remote learning", and that these overviews will be published weekly, starting on Friday 22 January.
3. Move driven partly by parents' concerns
Mr Swinney said that "we will make sure these reviews do not distract or burden" schools, but that they will provide "important assurance to parents" and ensure "further improvement in the remote-learning offer where needed".
4. £45 million of new funding for schools and families
Mr Swinney said this added to £160 million previously committed to the "education recovery since the start of the pandemic", and that it was "sufficient, in principle, to support the recruitment of an additional 2,000 teaching staff up until the end of the financial year".
5. Flexibility in how the money can be spent
Councils will have "flexibility" to decide how best to use the money, whether that means more mobile devices for pupils, recruiting more staff or providing support to parents and families.
6. Monday's problems 'resolved'
Mr Swinney said that "the problems experienced by some schools with Microsoft Teams on Monday have been resolved by Microsoft, with the service operating as expected". He added that these were "not related to Glow" – Scotland's national digital learning platform – and were "experienced by Microsoft users across the UK and parts of Europe".
7. Update on Covid tests for school staff
Mr Swinney promised that "all appropriate mitigations are in place to support a safe return" of schools, which could include "enhanced testing of school staff". He added: "Pilots of two different models – one using in-school testing with lateral flow devices, and another involving at-home testing using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests – are planned to begin in a small number of schools from next week."
8. Lessons from the last lockdown
After the last mass closure of school buildings in spring 2020, the government commissioned an "equity audit", in order "to better understand the impact on children’s learning, health and wellbeing, particularly those experiencing disadvantage". The equity audit was published today – Tes Scotland will have a story on this later.