Publication - Minutes

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery group minutes - 15 November 2021

Published: 7 Dec 2021
Date of meeting: 15 Nov 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 15 November 2021.

Published:
7 Dec 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery group minutes - 15 November 2021

Items and actions

Welcome

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

The minutes for the previous meeting on 1 November 2021 were agreed.

Action

  • minutes to be published online

Co-determinants of R presentation

Professor Linda Bauld, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group

Professor Bauld, chair of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG), presented an updated version of the co-determinants of R diagram. The diagram sets out key variables that can help determine the impact that student activity on campus may have on the pandemic in Scotland.

In the resultant discussion, the following points were raised:

  • whether staff and other associated professional groups are more susceptible to the virus, and can this be measured
  • the booster program is essential in addressing this susceptibility (for older staff members, which now includes those 40+ years)

Presentation: public health context (update)

Lynda Fenton: Public Health Scotland

The presentation provided a high level summary of the public health context of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

In-person teaching provision

Craig Robertson – Advanced Learning and Science COVID-19 Recovery

Craig Robertson gave a short summary of the meeting between college and university Principals and the Cabinet Secretary on Thursday 11 November, regarding the provision of in-person teaching in the new academic term. The group was advised that given the precarious situation we are in and the serious pressures on the NHS, any changes that institutions plan to make to their in-person teaching provision should be modest, phased and prioritise the education of those at risk of non-completion without an in-person element to their learning. The Cabinet Secretary will issue a follow-up letter outlining the ‘guiding principles’ for this approach. 

In the resultant discussion, the following points were raised:

  • trade unions reporting that some universities are planning on increasing both staff and student capacities in 2022
  • a meeting between the EAG and trade union representatives will go ahead on Wednesday 17 November
  • concerns about the impact that maintaining voluntary measures will have on CLD students being able to find practical-based placements
  • the pandemic has led to a shortage of CLD volunteers in terms of their limited return to these activities
  • survey data shows an improvement in access to facilities but this is still a big issue for the CLD sector across many different groups
  • although very limited in scope, PHS are open to having a discussion with CLD representatives about outbreak tracing in community based settings
  • concerns that existing guidance on preventing the spread of coronavirus is not always wholly applicable to CLD
  • concerns that some colleges are considering cuts to frontline support service roles due to budget constraints
  • reassurance from the SFC that they are monitoring the operational issues faced by institutions as a result of the pandemic, as part of their regular engagement
  • the recommendations from the Scottish Government’s ventilation Short Life Working Group are expected soon, an assessment can then be made regarding what (if any) support is needed to implement any measures
  • institutions are being asked to go above baseline measures to try and circumvent the need for greater restrictions in wider society
  • the restrictions in some colleges has meant some students choosing english institutions for particular courses
  • concerns over the effect of Harm 4 on students, particularly those from vulnerable categories, not being able to find employment alongside their studies
  • more engagement with the health and social care sector to identify areas of flexibility with student placements and assessment methods
  • a request for hardship funding for mental health support provision to be extended over a longer term to counter difficulties in attracting staff to provide this on short-term contract

Actions

  • Scottish Government officials to liaise with CLD representatives to identify areas of improvement in guidance
  • Scottish Government officials to pick up with the college sector to identify specific concerns regarding health and social care courses
  • Scottish Government officials will pick up issue of mental health funding

AOB and end of meeting

  • the group members are encouraged to look at the letter sent by the Cabinet Secretary on 8 November 2021 and assess what mitigations are needed in their institutions to keep staff and students safe
  • while all of the harms of the pandemic are serious and being taken on board, at present the effects of harm one are the most acute in society and must be addressed accordingly