COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 10 June 2021

Minutes from 10 June 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)  
  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People spokesperson, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) (co-Chair)
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Jean Blair, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Andrea Bradley, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Simon Cameron, CoSLA
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Alison Cumming, Interim Director of Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA
  • Liam Fowley, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland   
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland
  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Carrie Lindsay, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) 
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Jamie MacDougall - Deputy Director, Vaccine Strategy, Scottish Government
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Malcolm Pentland, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA 
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS) 
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE
  • Margaret Wilson, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)


  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting. 

Minutes of previous meeting 

Feedback from the draft minutes was requested. As no comments were made, the Cabinet Secretary recommended collective approval.

Standing items 


The meeting received a presentation related to the PHS dashboard. The number of cases is increasing, but remains lower than the levels seen earlier in the year. Hospital admissions showed a slight increase and this is being monitored closely. It was noted that the levels of positive tests were increasing in the 16 – 19 year age group, but had levelled off in primary school age group. However, the interpretation of numbers must be in the context that there is much more testing and expansive contact tracing happening than in January. Although local authorities were seeing evidence of more cases, it appears that the cases in school children continues to reflect community transmission. 

Feedback from CERG 

Scottish Youth Parliament.  The SYP have continued concern in relation to the announced SQA appeals process and, alongside their partner organisations, the SYP has sent an open letter to SQA outlining these concerns. This feedback was welcomed, and the issue will continue to be a focus of all relevant partners.  

Contingency planning working group  

Officials gave an update. Due to current levels of uncertainty, especially linked to the delta variant, the proposed approach is to maintain the current mitigations to the end of term, and to carry them forward to the start of the next term. The situation will be monitored over the summer and the start of term.  Requests were made for an alternative approach to contact tracing to be put in place for the start of the summer break as was done at Christmas. A decision to either ease or maintain mitigations would then be made once the new term had started and we had greater levels of clarity regarding the state of the virus. This decision would be based on the assessment of the public health position in the wider society. Pupils will be required to do Lateral Flow Tests the week prior to returning.  

The paper received positive feedback. It was agreed that this was the optimal approach under the circumstances and one that will give the maximum level of certainty possible at this juncture to aid planning within schools and local authorities.  

Education recovery strategy

Officials spoke to the paper provided. Specific points were highlighted, including: 

  • maintaining a primacy on health and wellbeing, and this being a precondition for a positive learning experience
  • rejecting a deficit model and negative / self-fulfilling framing in public discourse of ‘lost-learning’ or ‘catch up’
  • ensuring that children and young people are at the heart of decisions, and that a holistic perspective should be taken wherever practicable
  • reinforcing the desire to – and benefits of - adopting a partnership/collaborative approach to this work

The meeting broadly welcomed the paper and all agreed on the collaborative approach. It was noted that it would be important that education recovery ran in parallel with current and proposed reform and alongside policy development. It was equally important that the work and strategy development also focused on opportunities as well as education recovery. Specific feedback referenced recognition of UNCRC, CYP with ASN, and the interplay with workforce support. 

Rollout of Scotland’s vaccination programme   

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed the opportunity for the group to be updated on the current position given that there have been several questions raised over vaccination policy, including prioritising the education workforce, previously. The meeting received a slide presentation. It was noted that there was a high uptake in older groups but that the uptake in the younger groups was currently lower. The vaccination team was working to develop a blended communications approach to interact more effectively with younger groups, who were generally more digital facing and had greater ‘address mobility’, making reliance on letters more problematic. The meeting noted that advice from JCVI was awaited before further decisions would be made. 

Any other business 

No matters were raised and the meeting concluded. 

Cllr McCabe thanked the meeting for their attendance and their constructive participation. 

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everybody and closed the meeting.

Next meeting   

The next meeting 17th June. Thereafter, the group agreed to move to fortnightly meetings, but to maintain the ability to flex up and down in frequency if required.

If any members had any items for the agenda, they were invited to pass these to the Secretariat as soon as possible.

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