Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues minutes: 28 July 2020

Minutes from the sixth meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on Tuesday 28 July 2020.

Items and actions

1. Following the publication of the Delve report on the 24th July, the sub group reviewed its current advice on face coverings.  Members noted the currently low community transmission rate.  Sub-group members also discussed some international examples.  The mitigation measures being proposed in Scotland such as increased cleaning, avoidance of school assemblies and adequate ventilation were considered to be an appropriate response.  It was formally agreed that no changes to the previous advice should be recommended.  The sub-group stressed that ongoing vigilance and monitoring is needed.

2. Comments were sought on the final draft of the group’s advice note on Physical Distancing in Early Learning and Childcare settings, due for publication on Thursday 30 July.  Following discussion members agreed to update the advice to recommend that children under 5 years should not wear face coverings and that movement between settings should be reduced as much as possible while noting that the benefits to children being in childcare outweighed the potential risks involved.

3. The sub-group considered the proposed monitoring and surveillance programme.  It was noted that depending on localised outbreaks it may be possible to establish which populations are most likely to increase transmission; the need to achieve a representative sample was noted; the need for clarity about why people are being asked to participate (including informed consent); surveillance evidence from schools will be sought as part of a wider evidence gathering effort; the need to re-assure teaching staff about school safety and the potential for specific evidence to be gathered from the BAME community.

4. The sub-group was given a presentation on communications and risk. While the public had engaged well with issues such as the R rate, it was acknowledged that risk communication is becoming more complex and communicating the balance of risk to children, young people and their parents is challenging.  The approach of a rapid evidence review was suggested and it was agreed that this will be explored further.  It was noted that there is an art to making complex messages readily understood.  Members noted that advice from the sub-group should relate specifically to the needs of children and the education sector and that people should be mindful that advice is subject to change as new scientific evidence is published.

5. The sub-group considered a number of aspects related to young people’s attendance at college.  Matters discussed included: the potential higher risks of transmission bridges associated with senior pupils attending college, mixing with older adults and young people from other schools; social distancing rules; the need to continue to offer pupils a high quality college experience; the specific needs of pupils with additional support needs; and the possibilities of colleges offering a blended learning experience.  It was agreed that further sub group consideration was needed to adequately cover the wide range of issues referenced in the guidance.

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