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by Jenni Davidson
29 September 2017
Virtual Gaelic school commended for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development

Virtual Gaelic school commended for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development

Stornoway - Image credit: Andrew Bennett via Flickr

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s virtual Gaelic school has been praised in an independent evaluation for helping to cover teacher shortages and supporting professional development.

A report on the e-Sgoil’s virtual school’s first year commended the council’s leadership team for its desire to help other local authorities and said the “energy and commitment” of those involved in the project had been “most impressive”.

The independent report by former Highland Council director of education Bruce Robertson and Martin Finnigan of consultants Caledonian Economics was presented to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services earlier this week.

It also praised the use of e-Sgoil for professional development in education and suggested the e-Sgoil approach could be rolled out across Scotland.


e-Sgoil was set up last year with £140,000 of funding from the Gaelic language board, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, with the aim of creating an online learning environment that would provide connectivity between secondary schools to offer a wider range of subjects through the medium of Gaelic.

The review states: “It is very commendable how the leadership team at the Comhairle have looked for opportunities to test the e-Sgoil platform during the setup year, but also their active desire to help other authorities and schools in difficult situations has been impressive.

“Some highlights have included: the partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Hazlehead Academy for the delivery of a Gàidhlig course, thereby ensuring the continued opportunity for the pupils in the face of a staffing shortage; the links with Bishopbriggs Academy in East Dunbartonshire, again addressing a staff shortage for a three month period; the RMPS [religious, moral and philosophical studies] Higher course delivered from the Nicolson Institute to Sir E Scott school in Harris.

“These and other examples have not only proved the platform can work but also has provided very positive feedback.”

It continues: “One particularly innovative approach within the Comhairle, has been the use of e-Sgoil for professional development purposes within Education and Children's services.

“This innovative thinking has demonstrated the potential for the delivery of training to larger groups in a number of locations across the Western Isles.

“Bearing in mind travel time and associated costs, this may well prove to be a highly effective use that can be replicated in other Comhairle and local partner services, as well as elsewhere in Scotland.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the creation of a three-year plan for e-Sgoil, an engagement campaign to communicate the advantages of the e-Sgoil approach and an assessment of the role e-Sgoil could play in workforce planning.

It concludes that e-Sgoil has the “potential to place the Western Isles at the centre of national policy development and associated transformational change, and in so doing, be a key part of what education in Scotland does to enhance opportunities for all learners and educators - no matter their location.”

Many areas in Scotland are struggling with teacher shortages and this week a child wrote to Education Secretary John Swinney asking him to find a teacher for her school in the Highlands.

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