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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advanced Learning Recovery Group minutes: 23 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advanced Learning Recovery Group on 23 December 2021.


Welcome

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 (16 December 2021) are accurate. Action: Minutes to be published online.

Presentations 

Colin Sumpter (PHS) presented the latest COVID-19 data and Brett MacGillivray (SG COVID-19 Analysis Division) updated the group on COVID-19 modelling. Professor Bauld summarized the key points of the recent detailed minutes of the previous Expert Advisory sub-group and provided an update on the co-determinants of R diagram. In the discussion, the following points were covered:

  • Omicron infections in hospitals have not reached the heights of Delta infections, offering a 'hopeful indication' of what is to come
  • the complete vaccination (including booster) appears very effective against hospital admissions and extreme illness
  • action: In response to trade union requests, Scottish Government (SG) officials are to reach out to institutions to share examples of good practice regarding ventilation across sector
  • action: SG officials to follow up on a request that funding for mental health support be extended onto the next financial year to allow institutions to plan for the future
  • the importance of and need for institutions to communicate properly with students/staff, when there is still uncertainty on aspects of the pandemic
  • a request for examples of good practice on the above was welcomed by the TUs. Action: SG officials will collate
  • youth link expressed concern if there were restrictions being imposed by age (i.e., under 18s in particular) as this would pose a logistical challenge for the Community Learning and Development (CLD) sector provision across different age groups
  • Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) confirmed that new subject-specific assessment guidance had been developed to provide further flexibility for learners - this is available via their website and will continue to be updated

Discussion on the arrangements over the winter break period

Following the First Minister's statement on Tuesday 21 December, Craig Robertson informed the group that there was little of direct impact for the sector as yet, but urged institutions to maintain a cautious approach as the possibility of more robust measures remains. In the discussion, the following points were covered:

  • National Union of Students (NUS) raised a number of concerns regarding the need to properly make available support (financial, well-being etc) to both home and international students staying on campus over the festive period
  • trade unions requested that the updates received from both Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland regarding their plans for next semester is shared with trade unions
  • action: SG Officials to consider any issues on the delivery of for careers advice in schools, particularly where the ‘working from home’ guidance prevents this happening
  • action: SG Officials to explore how to provide a greater degree of certainty on funding for student counselling work
  • action: SG officials will be update the Guidance in order to incorporate/link to both ministerial letters
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