Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advanced Learning Recovery Group minutes: 19 April 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advanced Learning Recovery Group on 19 April 2022.

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 (30 March 2022) are accurate. 

Action: Minutes to be published online


Dr Shifa Sarica from Public Health Scotland presented the latest latest national data.  In the discussion, the following points were raised:

  • concern on tracking changes in Covid infection when the existing testing regime for PCR + LFD ends, and how vulnerable staff are expected to cope in the absence of this testing
  • the nature and extent of data is coming through the ONS survey and whether that will be sufficient to measure what’s happening
  • PHS confirmed that the ONS, along with data gathered for hospitalisations and Covid deaths are still reliable ways to measure Covid in Scotland
  • SG officials confirmed that PCR testing will be available until the end of April, and this type of testing in the future is available in an outbreak situation, if warranted

Professor Sir Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access gave a presentation on the impact of Covid-19 on Fair Access. In particular, the clear parallels of this to EAG work on harms 3 and 4 and the broad conclusion that students have missed out on a regular trajectory through to FE and HE, and the disproportionate social impact and disadvantage of least well-off students as a result.  In the discussion, the following points were raised:

  • Covid has shone a spotlight and exaggerated inequalities of pre-existing issues of access, mental health and digital poverty prior to the pandemic
  • for hybrid learning, colleges will require further SG funding to tackle digital poverty issues, made worse by Covid
  • support on mental health for students is still very acute, and an ask of Scottish Government to sustain their funding for mental health counsellors
  • doing an equality impact assessment to determine where the issues highlighted above have landed across the college sector and to inform policy responses
  • further study/research might include an analysis on the loss of learning and how colleges catch-up
  • online learning needs balanced against the important benefits of being on campus and a ‘sense of place and belonging’, e.g., student societies/clubs
  • decisions on blended learning should be local to individual colleges and will depend on the type of course
  • hybrid learning is the most likely model in the future, but opinions across the student population is mixed and there could be more demand for this in colleges

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

Craig Robertson, Scottish Government, opened a discussion on the Guiding Principles and how these are being applied in practice. The following points were raised:

  • the trade unions indicated they would provide their response to the Minister’s letter to CRG, on the above, in the next few days
  • initial feedback from the trade unions points to institutions utilising existing structures for the implementation ‘local committees’ and consideration of the constituent ‘guiding principles’


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