The Highland Council oversees 203 schools in their local authority. Made up of 29 secondary, 3 special educational schools and a mix of primary schools. These primary settings can range from 1 or 2 pupil schools, to 300 - 400 pupil schools. This wide range of learning settings means that flexibility is key in the Highlands. That’s what led the council to look for solutions that make learning more inclusive.
This included investing in over 30,000 Chromebook devices for teachers and students. As well as an ICT In Learning Team who work with schools to improve inclusion using technology. This team led the roll out of Read&Write for all students and teachers, to support their ‘anytime learning’ goal.
In 2020, The Highland Council used the Scottish Government’s Connecting Scotland fund to buy Read&Write. Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee, explains why this was important to the council’s education strategy:
“This software package will enable our young people of all ages to access the curriculum. It will also complement our existing Google Workspace for Education tools and help all of our pupils to understand, learn and express themselves with confidence. I am pleased our staff and pupils will have access to this software and I am sure we will see its benefit in both classroom and online learning.”
The success of Read&Write’s use across The Highland Council area was based on training for all levels of users. Through the use of a digital hub, staff, students and parents have quickly learned how to use Read&Write on their own terms. Robert Quigley, who is part of the ICT in Learning Team believes this approach was a game changer for parents:
“Our training sessions with parents during remote learning in 2020 have over 1,000 views because they’re able to engage in their own time. They are able to learn how they can help their child at home. They can also learn how Read&Write allows their children to engage more confidently with literacy.”
Tania Mackie, who works with Robert in the ICT in Learning team, also championed the use of Read&Write tools. These include text-to-speech, dictionaries and vocabulary tools to support understanding. Tania explains:
“It's about literacy for all, because once you have that access to literacy, you've got that enhanced ability to communicate and understand. We made the decision in Highland to work with Texthelp to roll out Read&Write because we can see the value in every pupil having access to tools that help them access their learning. We believe that can only be a win-win for attainment and for outcomes for young people.”
The Highland Council plan to continue using Read&Write as part of their digital education strategy. Which puts digital learning skills and technology at the heart of the curriculum. They see the value of Read&Write as a tool that can support all students, even though it is still necessary for some. And have used additional funding from the Connecting Scotland grant to extend the purchase of Read&Write for all students to July 2023. Tania and her team are already seeing the lasting impact that this will have on students’ learning.
A parent contacted me during remote learning, because their child was lacking in confidence and engagement. This was because the pupil had no support assistant at home to continue to carry out learning. When I let them know that Read&Write was available on the pupil’s Chromebook, their confidence increased. So for me moving forward, it really is about the empowerment of pupils to access literacy and in turn to access learning.