Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery group minutes - 1 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery group on 1 December 2021.

Items and actions


The chair (Jamie Hepburn - Minister for HE, FE, Youth Employment and Training) welcomed all to the meeting.

All agreed the minutes for the previous meeting (15 November 2021) are accurate. 

Action: minutes to be published online.

First Minister’s statement (23 Nov 2021): Minister for HE, FE, Youth Employment and Training

Mr Hepburn provided a recap of the main points of the FM statement on the 23rd November 2021 and updated members on the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.


Diane Stockton (PHS) presented the latest national data, and Audrey MacDougall (SG COVID-19 Analysis Division) updated the group on COVID-19 modelling. Although the data was marginally positive on a range of indicators, this didn’t take account of the new variant - Omicron. In the discussion, the following points were covered:

  • although too early to say for certain (given the low numbers), ongoing data analysis work aims to understand the likely impact of the new variant
  • there was an offer of support from the sector on vaccination provision – Action: this will be picked up by SG officials
  • there was also a plea from the sector on ramping up the frequency of LFD testing as a strengthened mitigation against the new variant – Action: SG colleagues will pick this up (e.g., supply etc.)
  • it was suggested that there may have to be some tweaks made to the ‘testing’ advice in the run up to Christmas
  • on CLD support for the vaccination, there was a question on what approaches can be taken to improve ‘take up’ amongst the hard to reach groups - Action: SG colleagues will pick this up
  • on the issue of COVID-19 mitigation and mental health impacts associated with harm 3, it was made clear that although no additional measures have been put in place (in light of the emergence of the new variant), however SG will respond quickly as the situation evolves and where it is necessary, take further action on mitigation

Update from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group: Professor Linda Bauld, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group

Linda Bauld summarised the recent work of the Advisory sub-group, including a meeting with Trade Unions and student representatives - to discuss and capture their perspective as part of the wider information collection piece.

COVID-19 – guiding principles: Craig Robertson – Advanced Learning & Science COVID-19 Recovery

Craig Robertson set out the main topics of discussion linked to the Cabinet Secretary’s guiding principles, including the updated SG Short Life Working Group (SWLG) recommendations on ventilation. In the discussion, the following points were made:

  • clarification was provided on the difference with in-person teaching and learning in the context of actual numbers of students having face-to-face teaching
  • it was reported that updated recommendations from the SLWG clarify focus on areas of poor ventilation and the need to ensure monitoring work completed by individual institutions is reported internally (to TUS) – Action: the recommendations will be circulated to COVID-19 Recovery Group (CRG) after the meeting
  • on the £23 million ventilation funding support for SMEs, SG was asked to explore access for the Community Learning and Development (CLD) sector - Action: this will be picked up by SG officials
  • the sector was asked to consider putting graduation ceremonies online, and where they are in-person, going beyond the baseline measures is strongly encouraged
  • there is concern from the TUs that the sector are still planning to implement significant increase to in-person teaching in the new term, and apparent limited cognisance of the Cab Sec guiding principles and FM statement on 23 November re: working from home where possible
  • the importance of continued collaboration on guidance delivery across the sector and within institutions was emphasised

Updating the SG beyond Level 0 guidance: Will Quinn – Advanced Learning & Science COVID-19 Recovery

Will Quinn updated the group on the planned update of the SG beyond level 0 guidance and the intention to share the published version with CRG members and seek feedback.

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