Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advanced Learning Recovery Group minutes - 8 March 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 8 March 2022.

Items and actions


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

All agreed the minutes for the previous meeting (8 February 2021) were accurate.

Action: minutes to be published online.


Following the presentation of the weekly COVID-19 data by Eileen Scott from Public Health Scotland, the following discussion points were raised:

  • waning of vaccines and BA.2 variant have to an extent caused the increase in numbers, although it is important to separate this from levels of hospitalisations and clinical outcomes
  • need for more/better qualitative data on Harms 3 and 4 as current information doesn’t always account for lost learning and impact on mental health

Professor Linda Bauld, Chair of the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Sub-Group on Universities and Colleges (EAG), provided an overview of a Wider Harms Paper developed by the Sub-Group using evidence provided by colleges, universities, trade unions, student representatives and Community Leaning and Development (CLD) providers. Linda reported the paper will be available in the coming days and stakeholder feedback is welcomed. In discussion:

  • highlighting recent survey that has gathered data on disruption to learning, mental health impacts, and the social/financial effects of the pandemic
  • it was reported that colleges have commenced their mental health survey. They expect around 10,000 responses and it will take 12 weeks to complete
  • CLD colleagues requested access to the survey for the purposes of examining how a similar exercise could be done with their sector. Action: Shona Struthers, CEO of Colleges Scotland, to share with CLD colleagues

Guidance review

Craig Robertson provided an update on the guidance review work. It was also reported that the final draft guidance will now be sent to Scottish Government Legal Department then to the Minister for clearance, with publication expected in the week commencing 14 March. Any final additional comments from stakeholders in the next day or so will be considered. In response, the following points of discussion were covered:

  • an ask for more detail of the SG’s COVID-19 outbreak management plan
  • some participants welcomed the inclusion of engagement with unions, embedding consultation, and continuation of CRG
  • some expressed concern around the effectiveness of local decision making in terms of varying situations (particularly CLD) and the technical knowledge required to take decisions at a local level
  • on principle 1 - encouraging a mix of home and office working – and how staff could potentially interpret the guidance as working from home as the default
  • on principle 4 - the expectation to meet any society-wide requirements does not recognise harms 3 and 4
  • wording in relation to the Guidance setting outing how rights are protected for outsourced workers
  • the importance of resourcing ventilation properly in the long-term (for CLD in particular), and examining the possible extension of the ventilation fund. Action: officials to clarify the current position
  • an ask that Guidance ensures there is a correlation with schools guidance, in particular in relation to having consistent guidance on face coverings for youth work activity. Action: officials to work with CLD colleagues on this

Future of CRG

Nicolas White led on a discussion around the future of CRG. In response members:

  • broadly agreed to move the meeting frequency to monthly, whilst highlighting the need to focus more on harms 3 and 4
  • wanted to move the discussion from COVID-19 ‘crisis management’ to COVID-19 ‘recovery’ and the need to work out an operationally sensible rhythm between EAG and CRG meetings

Next meeting

To be determined. Now 30 March 2022

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