Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery Group minutes: 16 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 16 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 (10 December 2021) are accurate. 

Action: Minutes to be published online


Public Health Scotland's Diane Stockton provided an update on the latest national data while Professor Linda Bauld discussed the main points of the recent advisory note received from the Advisory sub-group.

In the discussion, the following points were covered:

  • colleges to continue going further than the baseline measures, including limiting in-person teaching in the short term
  • in-person teaching where that is essential, will be done safely and extra measures will help ensure harm is avoided as much as possible
  • formalisation of the most recent government advice/measures (at this stage) includes a statutory requirement to work from home if possible

Discussion on the evolving pandemic: Craig Robertson – Advanced Learning & Science COVID-19 Recovery.  

Craig Robertson led a discussion on the evolving Omicron response. That includes working within the framework of the ‘four harms’,  and taking a cautious position. There was a possibility of more robust measures and reviving the Learner Journey Task Force if the current predicament lasts longer.

In the discussion, the following points were covered:

  • universities have a good track-record on taking more restrictive measures than the rest of society and continue taking a risk-based approach to learning and teaching, including working within the Four Harms framework
  • the results from the ‘thriving learners study’ show the psychological impact of maintaining on-line teaching longer term and the harms associated with that, particularly on mental health
  • it is agreed that we must avoid failure to meet learning outcomes and completing courses, emphasising the point that students still need the right spaces to learn (similar to schools)
  • colleges are applying lessons learned over the past 21 months and are working collaboratively with their Unions on this to be agile to and deliver the right protective measures
  • the trade unions welcomed the Minister’s letter and institutions recent responses to the evolving pandemic, but there are outliers and that’s a concern when the statutory duty of care to staff isn’t being adhered to: Action – Officials to engage these specific concerns
  • NUS welcomed the Minister's letter, and urged institutions to remain flexible on the assessment of courses, and consider how they might provide practical  to students who are required to isolate. Action: Minister to write to Student Presidents
  • support for digital access was critical at this time, and student associations are financially hindered without access to current government funding support on hospitality. Action: Officials to follow up on this
  • CLD members appealed to the Government to provide sector-specific guidance and support. Action: Officials to consider issues specific to CLD as part the guidance revisions
  • an ask from CLD members to ensure that essential services, such as youth work, aren’t compromised due to lack of access, e.g. building closures and the 'Work From Home' guidance
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