- promoting attendance and reducing absence
- curriculum and assessment matters
- provision of activities or clubs outside the usual school timetable
- improvement planning and reporting
- school transport
- national transport guidance and local authority arrangements
- active travel
- dedicated school transport
- public transport
- taxis and private hire vehicles
- free school meals
- workforce planning and support
It is recognised that some parents and carers may be concerned about their child being in school, and consider withholding their child until reassurance is provided. In these circumstances schools and local authorities should engage with those parents and carers to provide reassurance on any concerns, overcome any barriers to learning, and support attendance. National guidance on promoting attendance and managing absence makes clear the importance of relationships with families in promoting good attendance. The National Parent Forum has produced guidance for parents on the return to school.
Parents are required under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to provide education for their child. It is important that children and young people are able to benefit from their right to education; are able to see their friends and have social contact and benefit from the learning, care and support that schools provide. The ongoing need to reconnect to normal patterns and routines in children’s lives will be important and reassuring to them.
National guidance is clear that measures of compulsion for attendance should only be used as a last resort once all other approaches to support attendance have been undertaken. Additional codes will be developed within SEEMiS to support the recording and monitoring of attendance and absence, including specific codes relating to COVID-19.
Schools should consider the increased use of outdoor spaces. The outdoors can provide extra space for distancing between consistent groups of learners, help to decrease the risk of transmission and improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of young people.
Suitable facilities may include school playgrounds, local greenspaces and/or community areas, or locations further afield. Advice and support is also available from outdoor education experts. When enhancing existing outdoor space within their own grounds, schools may find it necessary to consider temporary shelters or the periodic use of established buildings for activities such as handwashing, regrouping or the relaying of instructions. An appropriate cleaning regime should be introduced along with appropriate bins for disposal of any rubbish and hand washing stations/sanitiser to ensure hygiene.
Schools should ensure that children and young people with additional support needs are not disadvantaged. In addition, if outdoor equipment is being used, schools should ensure that multiple groups do not use it simultaneously, as well as considering appropriate cleaning between groups of children using it. Appropriate clothing should be worn for the particular outdoor activity.
The Outdoor Learning Directory provides links to a variety of resources that can be filtered by subject area and curriculum level. Support and guidance on risk assessment can be found on the Going Out There framework. Further guidance is available on the educational benefit of outdoor education centres (published August 2020).
Practical activities, experiments and investigations
Practical, hands-on' learning and activities, experiments and investigations are an important part of the curriculum across all subject areas. We recognise that practitioners may need to adapt their approaches to enable learners to carry out these activities in a safe way. SSERC has produced guidance on carrying out practical work in Sciences and Technologies for early, primary and secondary levels, including links to helpful resources.
Physical activity and sport
Opportunities to participate in physical activity and sport have the potential to enhance children and young people’s mental and physical wellbeing and will support children and young people to lead healthy, active lifestyles now and in the future. Guidelines on Practical Activities have been prepared by Education Scotland and physical education practitioners to assist with decision-making and the safe implementation of timetabled physical education. These will be updated to ensure appropriate alignment with wider advice including that set out in the Strategic Framework.
The COVID-19 Advisory Sub Group on Education and Children’s issues has published advice on PE, music and drama in schools, which has more recently been updated upon the latest evidence. The advisory sub-group has indicated that advice on physical education in schools should remain broadly in line with advice in the community going forwards, in order to ensure consistency and better support compliance. Guidelines on physical education will therefore be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure appropriate alignment.
Guidelines on safe practice in home economics have been prepared by Education Scotland and practitioners and were published on 14 September 2020.
Guidelines on expressive arts
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues published its advisory note on physical education, music and drama in schools on 10 September, and updated it on 30 October. Education Scotland has produced specific guidelines covering art and design and photography, music (including singing), dance, and drama. These documents set out the hierarchy of risk in terms of the different types of activities and the different kinds of mitigations which can be put in place, providing schools with guidance on how to facilitate these important learning elements as fully as they can while remaining safe within the confines of public health advice. Guidance has been updated to take account of the new Strategic Framework.
Senior phase/SQA National Qualification courses
A number of measures for the awarding of National Courses at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher in 2020-21 have been confirmed.
There will be no external assessment of National 5 courses this year and an alternative certification approach will be put in place based on teacher and lecturer judgement supported by assessment resources and quality assurance. The SQA has published broad guidance on evidence gathering and estimation with a clear focus on the quality, not quantity, of evidence. This is accompanied by an SQA Academy Course on quality assuring estimates. After the October break subject specific guidance on the work that learners need to complete will be published by the SQA.
Higher and Advanced Higher exams are planned to start on Thursday 13 May 2021 and finish on Friday 4 June 2021, with Results Day on Tuesday 10 August 2021. The SQA will publish the full exam timetable at the end of October. A clear contingency plan will continue to be developed, including key checkpoints up to the February break to assess public health advice and its impact on the plans for these exams.
These are important for wider health and development of children and can be conducted subject to following the guidance set out in this note, and guidance for the general public where applicable. Schools should consider the need for out of hours cleaning when scheduling activities.
Guidance on school trips and visits was published on 14 August. The COVID-19 Advisory Sub Group on Education and Children’s issues has also published advice on school trips which include an overnight stay. It has more recently reaffirmed that the need for compliance with associated mitigations should be strictly enforced.
The Director of Learning at the Scottish Government wrote to all Directors of Education on 2 June to set out the latest guidance on recovery and improvement planning. This made it clear that planning for 2020-21 should focus on recovery, and then continuity of provision under these changed circumstances. There will be a continued emphasis on issues such as: supporting student and staff health and wellbeing; transitions at all levels; the impact of tragedy in communities; identifying gaps in learning; and a renewed focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap. In particular, there should be a focus on what can be done to remedy any impact that there has been around the widening of inequalities of outcome experienced by children and young people.
Schools and local authorities should also complete annual reporting, as a record of progress towards meeting improvement priorities up until the period when schools closed on 20 March 2020. It is important to capture the impact of work which has been undertaken during this academic session.
Effective school and local improvement plans are also essential to ensure that the improvement activity which will be set out in the 2021 National Improvement Framework will be informed by local and school-level priorities, and that it will reflect the school and local authority response to supporting children, families and school communities throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
This guidance is intended to inform local authority planning of school transport services. Local authorities are responsible for implementation of this section of the guidance, working with the operators with whom they contract to ensure necessary measures are put in place in line with risk assessments (which should involve appropriate consultation with trade unions and staff). Parents and school staff should all play a role in educating children and young people on acceptable behaviour on school and public transport.
This guidance has been informed by the scientific advice of the COVID-19 Advisory Sub Group on Education and Children’s issues, published on 16 July, updated advice on face coverings received from the Sub Group in w/c 24 August 2020, and the sub-group’s updated general advice published 30 October. The key messages from the scientific advice include:
- dedicated school transport should be regarded as an extension of the school estate and it is not necessary to maintain distance between children and young people of all ages
- important mitigations include: hygiene, ventilation, improved cleaning regimes including regular and thorough cleaning of surfaces, and regular handwashing. Hand sanitising should be required for everyone prior to boarding dedicated school transport and schools should also consider a process for children and young people which enables them to wash their hands immediately on arrival (as is the case for all children and young people), dispose of temporary face coverings in a covered bin or place reusable face coverings in a plastic bag they can take home with them, and then wash their hands again. Effective from 31 August, face coverings should be worn on dedicated school transport (subject to exemptions), to align with the position on public transport.
- children, young people and adults must not board dedicated school or public transport if they, or a member of their household, have symptoms of COVID-19. If a child or young person develops symptoms while at school they will be sent home. They must not travel on regular home-to-school transport. The school should contact the parent/carer who should make appropriate and safe arrangements to collect the child or young person. In this situation, the wearing of a face covering by the child or young person on the journey home is strongly advised.
- where public transport (including buses, taxi, trams, subway, trains, ferries and air) is required for school-aged children to attend school, the general advice and guidance from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland should be followed. This currently includes the mandatory use of face coverings unless exemptions apply and physical distancing where possible.
- drivers and staff on public transport, and to a lesser extent on school transport, are at relatively higher risk of exposure and particular attention should be paid to ensuring that they are protected from airborne and surface transmission
- compliance with the above should be strongly reinforced
Schools should be aware of the latest guidance on how to remain safe when walking, cycling and travelling in vehicles or on public transport as we transition through and out of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Local authorities should ensure that local arrangements and advice to staff, parents/carers and children and young people for travelling to and from their school are consistent with the latest national guidance. Schools should work with their local authority public transport teams to inform their local planning, particularly in respect of options to minimise and, where possible, stagger the use of public transport if necessary to address capacity constraints. As part of risk assessments, local authorities should work with schools, transport operators and trade unions as necessary to identify the risks arising from COVID-19 and work through the measures in this section of the guidance to minimise any risks to children, young people and staff travelling on transport to school.
Some general points for consideration are:
- local authorities and schools should ensure they maintain an appropriate understanding (e.g. through a survey of families or other engagement) of how children and young people travel to school, to aid in quantifying the potential public transport issues in local authority areas
- ensure understanding is shown to children, young people, staff and parents/carers who may be delayed in getting to school due to transport issues.
- additional support should be available for vulnerable families for planning their journey to school
- include colleges and other relevant partners in planning for school transport, as young people in the senior phase may also be doing some of their learning in colleges, on work placements, or through consortium arrangements
- ensure that all children and young people travelling on dedicated or public transport have access to hand sanitiser. The precise arrangements for doing so are for local authorities to decide in consultation with operators and school communities. Options may include provision of personalised supplies to those travelling on school transport
A strategy for communicating and disseminating clear information about school transport provision to parents/carers and children and young people, drivers and other staff should be developed.
As far as it is safe to do so, the use of active travel routes by parents/carers, staff and children and young people should be encouraged. Walking and cycling, scooting, wheeling etc should be strongly encouraged. In view of the potential for capacity constraints on public transport to impact on children and young people’s ability to attend school, all sustainable and active travel modes should be considered. If bikes are stored in bike sheds/racks consideration should be given to the cleaning of these areas and to reducing time spent at the bikes stores/shed.
This section of the guidance applies to dedicated school transport – broadly, transport services which carry children and young people to and/or from their homes and any educational establishment where they receive school education. It is important to note that dedicated school bus vehicles may be used for other purposes before and after transporting children to school – effective implementation of the preventative measures set out below is particularly important in these circumstances.
This guidance also reflects the scientific advice from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children regarding the requirements for the safe travel of children and young people to/from school published on 16 July, updated advice on face coverings received from the Advisory Sub Group in w/c 24 August and further updated advice published 30 October.
Local authorities should work with transport operators to agree what supplementary arrangements are needed alongside operators’ existing programmes for cleaning vehicles. It is recommended that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned appropriately after each journey wherever possible – especially important where vehicles are used for other purposes before and after transporting children to and from school – and that enhanced cleaning takes place at the end of each day. Ensuring an effective enhanced cleaning regime is in place will play an important role in suppressing transmission and building confidence among parents, children and young people in school transport services.
Children and young people
The updated scientific advice is that face coverings should be worn by children aged 5 years and over on dedicated school transport (unless exemptions apply).This means that the position on face coverings on dedicated school transport is consistent with the position on public transport. See the section on Face Coverings under Key Public Health Measures for further information.
The scientific advice makes clear that maintaining distance between young people on dedicated school transport is not necessary. However, where feasible and provided they do not introduce capacity constraints, the following precautionary approaches may help further minimise risk:
- where possible, arrangements should be put in place to allow family groups and children and young people from the same class groupings to travel together. This will reduce unnecessary mixing and is one way to further lower risk.
- while logistics may prevent this in many cases, where possible, school-aged children and young people should be assigned seats which they use consistently, although this is not essential. This could be allocating specific seats or having rules such as sitting in ascending year groups: front to back, youngest to oldest. Queuing arrangements for picking up children and young people may be important considerations in this regard.
- wherever vehicle capacity allows, distancing between individual passengers, or groups of passengers, is helpful. In particular, local authorities should consider whether distancing is possible for secondary pupils or those in the senior phase, in circumstances where children attending different schools travel on the same vehicle, and for certain children and young people with complex needs e.g. those that spit uncontrollably.
- where possible, avoid the use of face-to-face seating on dedicated school transport
- the consumption and sharing of food and drink should not be allowed
- any such arrangements will rely on clear communication between schools and families/children, including as part of their education to develop as responsible citizens. Drivers are unable to monitor and enforce seating arrangements.
- transport operators should be asked to keep windows on dedicated school transport open, where possible, and to ensure that mechanical ventilation uses fresh rather than recirculated air; or use air conditioning with attention paid to the appropriate frequency for changes of filters.
Drivers, staff and other adults
Particular attention should be paid to ensuring drivers, staff and other adults are protected from the risks of COVID-19 in vehicles. Risk assessments should consider whether changes within a vehicle are required, with changes made on that basis. This may include leaving seats behind/beside the driver empty or fitting a physical barrier or screen. Any adults travelling by dedicated school transport should conform with the requirements for public transport (1 metre distancing with appropriate mitigation measures in place and the wearing of face coverings, at the time of writing). Drivers and passenger assistants may wish to use alcohol hand rub or sanitiser at intervals throughout the journey, and should always do so after performing tasks such as helping a child into the vehicle or handling a child’s belongings. Drivers of school transport services may also have other driving tasks as part of their job role, for example delivering meals to care homes, day centres and sometimes transporting others who may be vulnerable. Local authorities should pay particular attention to effective implementation of the preventative measures set out in this guidance in these circumstances to prevent the spread of infection. As far as possible, windows should be opened.
Adults travelling with children and young people with Additional Support Needs
Adults travelling with children and young people with Additional Support Needs should be very alert to them displaying symptoms. As a general rule, these adults should wear face coverings. However, this requires to be balanced with the wellbeing and needs of the child: face coverings may limit communication and could cause distress to some children and young people. Advice should be provided to parents/carers to support the effective cleaning of specialist equipment for children and young people with additional support needs who are using school transport. Local authorities should consider the support available for children and young people with complex Additional Support Needs using school transport, and take appropriate actions to reduce risk if adherence to hygiene rules and physical distancing for adults are not possible. As far as possible, windows should be opened.
All (children, young people, drivers, other adults) travelling on dedicated school transport
All passengers and staff should sanitise their hands prior to boarding dedicated school transport. Schools should regularly reinforce the importance of this key message with all children and young people. Hand washing/hand sanitising should be done regularly throughout the day including on each and every entry to the school building and prior to boarding the school bus. Good respiratory hygiene should be encouraged (“Catch it, kill it, bin it”) and children and young people should be encouraged to carry tissues on home to school transport. It is crucial that someone with symptoms does not enter a bus and travel. Drivers and adult passengers must self-isolate and book a test if they display coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. Families must get a test for children and young people displaying symptoms.
Children and young people travelling to and from school normally form a significant proportion of the journeys on public transport during peak times, particularly in city schools and by secondary school children and young people. While physical distancing remains in place on public transport, it will not be practicable for those to resume in the same numbers or mode as previously. Journeys by public transport may take longer and timetables may change. Children, young people and staff who have no alternative to public transport should therefore be advised to plan their journey in advance and leave additional time where possible. Information on public transport services can be found on the Traveline Scotland website. Local authorities may wish to engage with bus operators to identify routes where capacity constraints may be particularly severe and to work with them to agree measures to improve capacity for school pupils.
To help address capacity constraints on public transport, local authorities may wish to work with operators and schools to consider the following approaches:
- consider making additional dedicated school transport available in such circumstances. Transport Scotland intelligence suggests there is significant spare capacity in the coach sector currently, due to reduced demand from the tourism sector.
- where consistent with children being in school full time, consider options which could reduce or spread the number of staff and children and young people travelling at peak times, for example by adjusting traditional start and finish times to avoid the morning and evening rush hours. This would, however, have knock-on impacts for staff and parents/carers. Feedback from some operators is that, in view of the shift in travel to work patterns occasioned by COVID-19, usual school timings may be achievable.
- consider introducing dedicated zones (e.g. seating or carriages) for school-aged children and young people on public transport at peak school journey times. The scientific advice from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues includes this recommendation. Discussions with local authorities and operators indicate this approach is likely to be suitable only for services that primarily carry children and young people to school, with limited numbers of adult passengers (i.e. a similar composition as for dedicated school transport). The following considerations apply:
- in dedicated zones, on both local authority-contracted school bus services and all other public transport services, the same arrangements regarding physical distancing, hygiene, face coverings and cleaning, etc. should apply as for dedicated school transport (see above).
- ensure sufficient separation and clear demarcation between zones for the general public and zones for school-aged children and young people. For example, use the top deck of a double decker bus for school children where this is available, or a separate train carriage.
- where this is not possible, and zones are on the same level, ensure there is at least 1m distancing, where operators have deemed that acceptable through the introduction of appropriate mitigation measures, and clear demarcation between the zone for the general public and the zone for school-aged children and young people. There should be clear signage and communication to inform the general public of any such arrangements prior to boarding.
Where children and young people have more complex public transport arrangements to and from their school, for example involving air, ferry or multiple transfers which may be operating on a reduced or different timetable, authorities should explore options with local operators, to inform what pattern and location for in-school learning may be practicable in the immediate term.
Some children and young people, including those with additional support needs, rely on taxi transfers to get to school. Where taxis are used solely for the purpose of transporting children and young people to school, as with dedicated school bus and coach services, physical distancing requirements are not necessary. It is recommended that in private hire vehicles (which are typically saloon cars) children and young people travel on the back seat only and wear face coverings. As far as possible, windows should be opened.
There should be careful consideration of how children and young people with additional needs and adults supporting them can be provided with safe, bespoke transport arrangements. This could include the use of Perspex shields in taxis (taking into account relevant safety concerns) or finding larger vehicles for transportation. Local authorities and schools should liaise with their local private hire providers on the measures they are putting in place to protect passengers, including for the arrangements for carrying multiple passengers.
When travel by taxi or private hire vehicle is necessary, passengers should follow the advice of the driver, including sitting in the back-left hand seat of the car when travelling alone. Appropriate cleaning and sanitising measures will also be necessary.
Routes to and from some schools may also be different as areas have made changes to enable physical distancing on pavements and on existing or pop-up cycle routes. While continuing to encourage walking or cycling where they can, parents or carers taking their children to school by car should be encouraged to plan their journey in advance and ensure that their chosen route is accessible. Local authorities may consider introducing park and stride for those children and young people who have to travel by car. Sustrans guidance on school streets provides advice. Where it is possible to do so, family groups should travel together.
Local authorities’ duty to provide free school meals to children and young people who are eligible for them remains. The universal provision of free school meals to all children in P1-P3 who are attending school should continue and all food provided should comply with the School Food and Drink Nutritional Standards.
Local authorities remain under a duty to ensure that free drinking water is available to children and young people throughout the day and schools are expected to continue to meet this duty whilst taking account of the latest health protection advice.
Guidance from Food Standards Scotland (FSS), which includes a risk assessment tool and checklist should be followed. Any school or local authority wishing to provide a breakfast service should follow this risk assessment tool and checklist. Further advice around mitigating any issues identified by the risk assessment can be requested from the local environmental health team. Additionally, this Q&A from FSS may be useful. Assist FM have also produced updated catering advice.
Additional workforce capacity will be needed to provide a range of additional support to help with recovery work. The Scottish Government has made additional funding available to local authorities for the recruitment of additional teachers and other staff to support COVID-19 recovery.
Local authorities and headteachers, working in close partnership with unions and staff, are best placed to make judgements about how to make best use of available workforce capacity safely and effectively. Many of these decisions will be based on agreements reached within Local Negotiation Committees for Teachers (LNCTs) or local Scottish Joint Council arrangements. This section sets out some high level expectations to ensure consistency, and some information on national initiatives to support local authorities in these efforts.
Schools may require additional staffing and the flexibility to deploy staff appropriately over the current school year to best support children and young people whose progress with learning has been impeded during lockdown, as well as to bring much needed resilience to the education system at this time (e.g. to cover for staff absence).
Additionally, should a locality move into Protection Level 4, there may be additional strain on workforce capacity, for example as a result of fit notes for those in the shielding group or increased requirements for self-isolation. The need for additional capacity in the teaching workforce should be considered in order to deal with such impacts.
Local authorities should consider carefully their requirements for additional wider workforce staff, such as cleaners and other facilities management staff to implement enhanced environmental cleaning regimes.
Local authorities should work through the following actions as part of any teaching/auxiliary education workforce planning activities for school premises:
- ensure that teachers who have not yet secured permanent employment are considered as an integral part of their planning
- consider the potential for teachers with strong digital teaching skill sets to support remote learning. This may be an important aspect of maintaining educational continuity
- ensure that supply lists are as up to date as possible and include the full pool of available staff. Supply staff are an important aspect of maintaining educational continuity and should be fully utilised in local planning around workforce capacity where needed
- consider at a local level how all staff who are having to stay at home due to self-isolation can support educational continuity, for example by supporting remote learning
- consider the availability of health and social care and other multi-agency partners as part of planning for support for children and young people
- consider any other opportunities to ensure existing qualified teaching staff and wider workforce capacity, such as classroom assistants, cleaners etc, can be effectively deployed
Throughout this process potential workload issues should be carefully considered, and local authorities should be conscious of the wellbeing of all and the need to implement flexible working practices in a way that promotes good work-life balance for all staff.
Identifying additional workforce capacity
If the existing capacity in the teaching workforce is insufficient to meet the challenges of full-time school, partners have agreed that action will be taken to quickly mobilise additional teachers, for what may be a temporary period. The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland) have made contact with individuals whose teacher registration has lapsed within the last 3 years, including recently retired teachers, to establish their willingness and availability to return to teaching. Should this be required based on local need, GTC Scotland will facilitate contact with local authorities. However, as noted above, existing current teachers (including supply teachers) who have not yet secured permanent employment should be considered first.
Guidance has been developed on the management of student teacher professional placements in recognition of the fact that schools are likely to face challenges in effectively supporting students on initial teacher education (ITE) programmes from the beginning of the new school year. It confirms that no students will be placed in schools prior to the October 2020 school break. The GTC Scotland has worked with universities to ensure any adjustments to individual programmes align with their accreditation standards. To ensure that maximum flexibility is maintained, the guidance also confirms that ITE providers will develop contingency plans to allow student teachers to undertake some of their teaching practice through the use of remote learning, should opportunities for direct classroom experience not be available from mid-October 2020. Further guidance has been developed that sets out a range of potential enhanced student support and alternative student assessment approaches. This clarifies expectations for university tutors, local authorities and schools.
Local authorities should ensure that capacity in the wider workforce in the school environment is sufficient to meet the challenges of full time school and keep this under constant review. For example, depending on local circumstances, there may be a particular need to recruit additional classroom assistants to support learning or cleaning staff for enhanced hygiene arrangements.
The health and wellbeing of staff is a key principle of education recovery and support should be developed collegiately with staff. Local authorities and settings should ensure that appropriate support for professional learning and wellbeing is provided to all staff, some of whom will be working in unusual circumstances. Local authorities, employers and a range of national organisations already provide a wide range of support to the workforce. This includes a range of employee assistance programmes and online professional learning and support that covers the health and wellbeing of the workforce, colleagues/staff and of children and young people.
Local authorities and settings may wish to access the Joint Communication document providing a summary of available resources, produced by partners working under the Education Recovery Group (Workstream 6 – Workforce Support). The COVID-19 Education Recovery Group is continuing to discuss the provision of additional professional learning designed to support staff.