John Swinney has defended the different approaches to remote learning across Scotland but said he is concerned about the impact of school closures on pupils.
The Education Secretary was asked about the wide disparity between different parts of the country with schools currently closed for the majority of pupils.
Mr Swinney said the use of online teaching platforms was a “fundamental strength” and allowed a “high degree of direct engagement between pupils and teachers”.
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, he admitted concern about the impact of the pandemic and school closures on pupils and their attainment, but said he trusted teachers to deliver the best education possible in the circumstances.
Describing it as a “terribly tough year”, Mr Swinney said: “I can’t sit here and say that remote learning, the current environment, and that the school year that we’re going through is the ideal school year – it’s far, far from ideal.
“I worry about the impact on the wellbeing of young people.”
Asked about the different platforms, engagement and online teaching methods seen across local authority areas, Mr Swinney said: “Fundamentally, the success of remote learning depends on its delivery by individual teachers in individual schools dealing directly with their pupils.
“I think we’ve seen a significant strengthening of that in the course of the last few months.
“We’ve published the guidance of the entitlements that learners have during a period of remote learning and that applies right across the country and schools are responding to that.
“Now, they will respond differently, and I think that’s important, that we recognise that because we don’t have a uniform education system here in Scotland – we have chosen over many years not to have that.
“Our system relies on the professionalism of our teachers and our teachers go through rigorous training to establish themselves as professionals, they are regulated by the General Teaching Council.
“We have a really strong teaching profession in Scotland and they are the forefront of deciding what are the right steps for their learners at every different stage in the year and in the curriculum.
“And I think trusting our professional teachers to deliver remote learning is a fundamental strength in college education, and it makes sure that young people are able to get access to high-quality learning, wherever they live in the country.”
Mr Swinney also said there would be a statement in Parliament on Tuesday with more details about whether schools can reopen to all pupils – rather than just for the most disadvantaged and children of key workers – from next month.
However, he suggested getting all pupils back in the classroom by the start of next month will be a “tall order”.
He said: “The virus is still a very high level in general within society and we took the view that we had to have the level of community transmission suppressed to enable us to protect the National Health Service.”
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