Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery Group minutes - 14 September 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 14 September 2021.

Items and actions


The Chair (Jamie Hepburn - Minister for Higher Education, further Education, Youth Employment and Training) welcomed all to the meeting. 

A request from Mary Senior to make a minor amendment was implemented. Following this change all agreed the minutes were an accurate reflection of the previous meeting on 24 August 2021. 


  • minutes to be published online


  • public health context (update): Eileen Scott, Education Recovery and COVID-19 Vaccination Surveillance, Public Health Scotland
  • COVID-19 modelling and projections (update): Mel Giarchi, Deputy Head, SG COVID-19 Analysis Division

In the discussion following the presentations, the following points were discussed:

  • since the return of some universities and colleges, one minor COVID outbreak has been reported and the local health team has been made aware
  • there is change to the SG strategy in responding to the current high case rates. No specific trigger point for response to case rates has been specified
  • Public Health Scotland takes a risk/harm approach to case  rates and the continued vaccination program has been instrumental in responding to the harms
  • the rise in hospitalisations in young people is proportionate to the case rates with around 1% of young people who test positive needing to be hospitalised. However, 50-75% of these hospitalisations last for less than 24 hours
  • in modelling, projected figures for just the student population are not possible as students cannot be separated from the wider community
  • projecting figures for the student population would also be problematic as it depends on the risk in the area that the students are travelling from vs the risk in the area they are travelling to

Cabinet Secretary letter – returns analysis - Craig Robertson, Advanced, Learning and Sciences COVID-19 Recovery

Institutions’ returns show clearly the sector is much more prepared this year than at the same time last year.

There is a positive focus on vaccinations with either pop-up clinics on campus or suitable alternatives available to students.

Institutions have a positive and proactive approach to testing and communication surrounding testing, particularly before travel.

Beyond baseline measures such as physical distancing, ventilation, and an emphasis on personal responsibility have been incorporated by institutions.

All institutions reported having developed outbreak management plans.

All institutions reported that they had formed a relationship with local PH teams.

The short time frame given by SG to the sector for responses to the letter likely affected the detail of responses received so SG may seek more detailed information from some institutions.

The responsibility of the sector to plan their guidance in relation to Face Coverings in accordance with staff and student needs was reiterated.

AOB and end of meeting

There has been a view that it may be beneficial in some instances for institutions to apprise student unions and the wider student population of their outbreak management plans. This may provide reassurance that robust plans are in place for an outbreak. 

More information on ventilation is requested. This issue of ventilation is at the top of the First Minister’s agenda. A short-life working group of ventilation experts has been established. They will work with the HE/FE sector in due course. 

The implementation of the CO3 form will make contacting close contacts for Test and Trace easier.

Date of next meeting will be set soon in order to accommodate the frequency of Expert Advisory Group meetings. 

The chair brought the meeting to a close. 

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