185. The best and safest way to re-open schools is in the context of low community transmission and with a clear strategy towards driving case numbers continually towards zero. Given Scotland's current low prevalence, schools should reopen for full-time learning in August, but with a view to being able to change those arrangements at short notice if required.
186. If the further unlocking of restrictions results in an increase in cases, there will need to be flexibility in the use of this advice and variation among areas depending on transmission in their local community. This could mean, for example, that distancing may be required or the introduction of face coverings on school transport if prevalence increases. However, the overall objective is to continue to push incidence and prevalence down across Scotland and to re-establish school provision as fully as possible.
187. In the event of a local outbreak of the virus, a school or a number of schools may be closed temporarily to help control transmission. Schools and local authorities will need contingency plans for this eventuality and should include the possibility of using online national resources such as digital classrooms. This may involve a return to being open for vulnerable children and children of key workers only and providing remote learning and support for all other children and young people. Local authorities and schools should ensure that parents/carers are fully informed of the contingency plans in place.
188. If the scientific advice is that physical distancing should be introduced for children and young people in schools, then schools and local authorities must be prepared to enact contingency measures as outlined in their Local Phasing Delivery Plans. Local authorities should continue work to strengthen these and to plan for different future scenarios. e.g. a range of distancing requirements.
189. Local authorities and schools should continue the work they have been undertaking in relation to tackling digital exclusion. This includes the provision of devices and connectivity solutions to support educational continuity when children and young people are learning outside of the school environment. This local activity will be supplemented by the Scottish Government's £30m investment in digital devices and connectivity solutions designed to combat digital exclusion.
190. Evidence from the Child Poverty Action Group showed that families entitled to free school meals valued having that support continue during lockdown. Should a school or schools be closed during term time local authorities should continue the provision of a free school meal or an alternative to all children who are eligible, this could include a direct cash payment, voucher, home delivery or collection from a specified hub.
191. Schools should maintain frequent and regular contact with children and young people while learning at home.
192. Local authorities and schools should consider the use of resources through national initiatives and partnerships including the enhanced e-Sgoil and SCHOLAR offerings. As announced on 25 June 2020, local authorities, Education Scotland, and other key partners are working with e-Sgoil to deliver a range of live lessons which will be delivered by qualified teachers to support learning across Scotland. Partners are working to ensure a wide-range of certified courses in both English and Gaelic medium education are available for learners in the senior phase from 11 August 2020, with lessons in the broad general education available thereafter.
193. The appropriate digital resource in terms of cameras, etc. would need to be implemented in learning spaces if this approach were adopted. There are other examples across Scotland, whereby a lesson is taught across dual locations, with those not in the same location as the teacher still being able to participate in class discussions and interact with the teacher. The digital infrastructure in all environments (home and school) should be considered, including cameras, microphones and appropriate IT, as well as wider considerations around safeguarding and online safety.
Special considerations for certain groups
Children, young people and staff who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding)
194. Local authorities and schools should consider the arrangements for children, young people and staff who are clinically vulnerable, in the event of a localised outbreak of COVID-19. This should include consideration of the plans for communicating with families, the actions to be taken immediately on the emergence of a local outbreak, the arrangements for returning clinically vulnerable children, young people and staff to their homes, the arrangements to support children and young people's learning and care, and staff wellbeing. This may include seeking advice from the health protection team who are managing the response to the potential localised outbreak.
Support for children with Additional Support Needs
195. Local authorities and schools should consider the arrangements required to support children with additional support needs learning during any localised outbreaks of COVID-19 as part of contingency planning. For some children and young people with additional support needs the return to home learning may have a significant impact on them, due to further changes in their learning approach. Wherever possible, consistency in learning approaches and support should be maintained. It is recognised that this will be balanced against the need to ensure that any outbreak of COVID-19 is contained and managed.
Support for vulnerable children and young people
196. Local authorities and schools should consider the arrangements needed to support vulnerable children and young people. This may include ensuring continued support for children and young people at risk of harm through children's services, and to support for their continued learning.