MINISTERS have been criticised for the 'failure' of its 13-year-old Scottish schools digital network to provide teaching to children in state schools during the coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as a new study concentrating on music tuition raised further disquiet that pupils are being educationally starved during the pandemic and a "widening of the gap between the least and most advantaged".

The Scottish Schools Digital Network, renamed Glow was launched in 2007 to provide online resources and connected learning opportunities for all Scottish schoolchildren and teachers.

It was established as national schools intranet, digitally linking Scotland's 800,000 educators and pupils.

Funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) it was described as probably the largest such initiative in the world.

READ MORE: Two thirds of Scots parents complain about having no online lessons from schools during lockdown

John Wallace, the chairman of the Music Education Partnership Group charity and the former head of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said: "The disappointing finding is although Education Scotland had Glow set up to ‘light up learning’ since 2007, it was neither functional enough nor widely enough used to enable a switch to blended learning in the state system.

"In contrast, every private school in Scotland and every third sector organisation was on to online delivery the week after lockdown."

Before the launch an independently produced movie introducing Glow was produced where a young teacher is taken on a journey to a land beyond her overflowing school desk.

There is then a demonstration of the potential of a world where staff briefcases no longer bulge, all curriculum content is available at the click of a mouse and teachers once again have a social life.

A Music Education Partnership Group study involving over 200 teachers and tutors, 60 students, 70 parents and carers and 25 youth music organisations in June and July found that "initial scepticism" for online teaching generally disappated amongst tutors.

HeraldScotland:

But only a "very small" percentage had experienced more than a year with online lessons before the lockdown. Even though online systems had been in place for several years, the report states the evidence from the interviewees was that the use of online facilities for teaching purposes was "minimal".

There was no account from any interviewees of "sustained and systematic wide use" of technology for online teaching prior to lockdown.

And over half of all teachers, tutors and youth music organsiations (54%) did not feel adequately prepared to make the transition to online practices. It highlighted the issues of "accessibility" to online working and "technological issues".

There was concern about a "digital divide" in access to music lessons an a "widening of the gap between the least and amost advantaged".

But some managers described staff as "just getting on with it" and gave accounts of colleagues’ flexibility and willingness to develop online systems.

Some 87% of those taking part had only been engaging with online musical activity in the previous six months.

"Factors around resources, safeguarding, suitability for students and funding were the most consequential aspect in feeling 'unprepared' for this shift," the analysis said.

Levels of student updake in some areas were high, with one local authority reporting 2000 live lessons a week with over 80% engagement and up to 3200 students online.

The analysis part-authored by Dr Lio Moscardini, a lecturer on inclusive education at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland recommends an audit to find out those children and young people who are able to access services and that there should be "national music resource for all and accessible to all".

Last week a meeting of the instrumental music teachers network of the EIS teachers union highlighted "serious concerns" over the impact of Covid-19 with tutor currently having limited access to schools.

A Glow promo from 2013.

While some experts believe it can help in the recovery from Covid, the reductions in music education provision were "causing concern" around young people’s access to instrumental music, and about workload and job security for the teachers, the union said.

READ MORE: Neil Mackay - Scotland’s handling of schools in lockdown is a national disgrace

Mr Wallace added: "One of the major benefits of keeping contact with music making for the kids from the survey and interviews seemed to be mental health and well-being. Particularly with disabled kids. Now that health and well-being is the first priority objective given to Education Scotland from the Scottish Government in the return schools it would seem perverse to marginalise the expressive arts as seems to be happening."

In April, parents home-schooling their children on Shetland were advised to seek help if they were experiencing problems with Glow.

It comes after a number of households encountered difficulties with the online home education system.

Quality improvement manager with the Shetland Islands Council Robin Calder advised that anyone finding problems logging onto the system should not hesitate to raise their concerns.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The past six months have demonstrated the strengths of the GLOW national online learning platform, which proved to be a vitally important resource during lockdown. The total number of logins in May 2020 was 11.4m, around four times that of the same period in 2019. There were also half a million active users in June 2020 compared to around 260,000 in February.

“Glow includes the facility for practitioners and learners to use video which ensures very good opportunities for all schools and practitioners to engage with learners who are self-isolating. There are also very many examples of practitioners providing live lessons simultaneously to learners in class and those isolating at home through using video conferencing facilities on GSuite and Teams in the secure environment of Glow.

“Education Scotland is also providing enhanced training and professional development to class teachers on digital learning and teaching, and we are investing £25 million to address digital exclusion in schools, sufficient for local authorities to provide around 70,000 devices and 18,000 connectivity solutions to disadvantaged children and young people across Scotland.”