The “quality and effectiveness” of remote learning being delivered by teachers will be scrutinised by education inspectors, John Swinney has announced.
He said Education Scotland inspectors will examine the standard of online teaching and learning, although he pledged to ensure the reviews do not “distract or burden” schools.
The Education Secretary also pledged £45m for local authorities to support schools, which can be used to either recruit additional staff or to buy laptops and other devices for home learning while schools remain closed for the majority of pupils.
The funding will be “sufficient in principle to support the recruitment of an additional 2000 teaching staff” for the next two months, Swinney told MSPs, although councils will have flexibility on how the money is spent.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, he said: “I can announce today that the quality and effectiveness of remote learning across the country will be reviewed by HM Inspectors of Education.
“A programme of ‘national overviews’ will commence immediately and last for the duration of remote learning.
“These will evaluate what is working well and where further improvement is required, based on information collected from varied sources including engagement with schools and local authorities.”
The findings from the reviews by HM Inspectors of Education will be released weekly, Swinney said, with an initial evaluation of councils’ planning and guidance on remote learning due to be published by Friday January 22.
Swinney continued: “Schools are, rightly, deeply focused on delivering quality remote education now: we will make sure these reviews do not distract or burden them while providing important assurance to parents and ensuring further improvement in the remote learning offer where needed.”
Outlining what he expects of schools and teachers while schools are closed, Swinney added: “Remote learning will not replicate in-school teaching – in style, approach or hours of delivery – but what constituted high-quality learning, teaching and assessment prior to the pandemic is what constitutes high-quality learning, teaching and assessment now.
“It remains the responsibility of Scotland’s dedicated teaching professionals to plan, organise and deliver that learning.
“I know our teachers are deploying their professional skills and rising to the challenges posed by the current situation.”
Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “While this commitment from the SNP government to fund more teachers is welcome, it is yet another example of John Swinney finally doing the right thing at the last minute.
“These teachers have been needed not only during the pandemic, but for many years, as Scotland has fallen down international league tables whilst teacher numbers have been repeatedly slashed.
“Our teachers have gone above and beyond during this pandemic and continue to do so and simply deserve better leadership and support from those in charge.
“A phased return for more pupils to return to classroom learning would be welcome and if that is to be the case, the SNP Government need to provide the clearest possible guidance to teachers and parents.
“John Swinney has also failed to guarantee every pupil who needs a device will get one, which will only widen the attainment gap even further on his watch.”