Items and actions
The Chair, Minister for HE, FE, Youth Employment and Training, welcomed all to the second meeting of the group.
Apologies from Fiona Robertson (SQA) and David Belsie (EIS), with Robert Quinn (EIS) and Deborah Shepherd (SQA) standing in for them.
Terms of reference
The Minister thanked everyone for their contributions to the preparation of the Terms of Reference, and it was agreed to publish them online.
Minutes of previous meeting (28 May 2021) also agreed.
Public health context (update): Diane Stockton – Chief Officer: Education Recovery and COVID-19 Vaccination Surveillance, Public Health Scotland
PHS provided an update on the number of cases and current immunisation on the age group of concern, effectiveness of vaccinations, updates on new variants. In discussion, the following points were made:
- the challenge of differentiating data on positive cases between students and general population in the age cohort
- recognition that colleges, in particular have significant numbers of students under 18, and to ensure Covid monitoring takes this and college based student residences into account
- the need to be planning for outbreaks in halls of residence that goes beyond advice on ‘behaviour’, particularly given the associated age cohort and numbers of international students
- the value and potential for sharing the SG modelling team’s work on the transmissibility of new variants (as these will be higher)
- the possible benefits of commissioning data work on ‘long Covid’ (for young people) in order to understand the risks and how this might play out for staff and students
- to consider further the efficacy of vaccines against new variants, including where arriving overseas students have received vaccines not licensed in the UK
- the potential for having pop-up vaccination centres at Universities and colleges
Action: Diane agreed to share presentation slides after the meeting.
Action: Diane to consider the geographical spread of positive cases at a future meeting.
The Chair indicated the need to review the circumstances across the levels system, and get as much clarity on these and appropriate guidance on measures as possible.
Craig Robertson stated that the work plan will initially focus on plugging the gap in guidance for arrangements beyond level 0, followed by reviewing existing guidance at levels 0-4, covering the blended and restricted blended learning models.
The group will work collaboratively across 2 task and finish groups, which will separately focus on the formal and informal settings, to achieve this.
Expert Advisory Group - advice note on ‘beyond level 0’: Carol Tannahill: Chair of EAG
Carol Tannahill’s summary of the Advice note covered the 6 headline components of mitigation in place to manage the risks of virus transmission and impact, and how guidance on measures and behaviour could support their effectiveness and adherence across the sector.
In discussion the following points were made:
- certainty on physical distancing arrangements as soon as possible given that timetabling takes 6-8 weeks, teaching starts at the beginning of September, but in some cases students will be on campus for teaching from next month
- the critical need to ensure Guidance on levels 0-2 is reviewed (in tandem) to fit in with the timetabling and planning for the new term
- to think about whether a more coherent approach to CLD is needed, including other relevant support in the community
- to consider what might be a safe level of vaccination (e.g., double doses) amongst students and staff before we move to more relaxed restrictions
- the requirement to have appropriate guidance on physical distancing and timing of changes given the potential harm if distancing is reduced and there is more face-to-face interactions
- to carefully consider the ‘mass’ movement of students at the start of term and whether there is a benefit to model this
Action: Carol agreed to share presentation slides after the meeting.
The Chair emphasised to the need for pace on this work.
Craig Robertson outlined the work of the CRG Task and Finish groups over the next 2 weeks, that will provide draft guidance for beyond level 0, prior to the next CRG meeting on the 29th June.
To invite names and nominations for people from the different bodies represented on CRG to join task and finish groups.
AOB and end of meeting
The Chair brought the meeting to a close. Further information about the next meeting will follow.
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