COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 11 February 2021

Minutes and papers from 11 February 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)  
  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People spokesperson, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Alan Armstrong, , Education Scotland
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland 
  • Michael Chalmers, Director of Children and Families, Scottish Government 
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, General Secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • John Gallacher, Regional Manager, UNISON 
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland   
  • Carrie Lindsay, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), President 
  • Janie McManus, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Elizabeth Morrison, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) 
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)  
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Dr Grace Vickers, Solace
  • Margaret Wilson, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)

Items and actions


Part I: 5 minutes   

Welcome from DFM   

Minutes of previous meeting CERG 43 [Paper 1]   

Part II: 50 minutes  

Weekly feedback/ongoing monitoring    

  • MI data [Paper 2a]    
  • weekly feedback [Paper 2b]    

Guidance updates

  • staff/Senior Phase Testing Update 
  • supplementary Guidance [Paper 3] 
  • Senior Phase Practical Subjects Guidance [Paper 4] 

Part III: 30 minutes     

Update from C&F leadership group on February-April 2021 Action Plan [Paper 5] 

Update on Student and Probationer Teachers [Paper 6] 

Part IV: 5 minutes     

AOB and next meeting on 18 February     




The Deputy First Minister confirmed that the outcome of the next fortnightly review would be announced in parliament on 16 February, and that the government is committed to only taking decisions with clinical endorsement. 

Officials shared that the number of cases of COVID-19 amongst 2–17-year-olds had fallen for the fifth consecutive week. We also know that pupil attendance across Scotland had fallen due to the weather conditions. 

Public Health Scotland (PHS) confirmed that cases and incidences in schools and ELC settings are being very closely monitored. Whilst there have been some cases in children and staff that are in-school, these are very unlikely to be due to in-school transmission, but reflect community prevalence. PHS continue to work with Public Health England who have more data on the new variant due to a greater number of children currently attending ELC and primary settings. 

Updates on asymptomatic testing for school staff and senior phase pupils

Guidance, fact sheets and FAQs are now available to local authorities and schools, and test kits are being distributed, with some delays due to adverse weather conditions. Officials are working with Young Scot to develop a communications strategy for young people, as well. 

Update on the Supplementary Guidance

The guidance is developing at pace, with some areas requiring further consideration. These include composite classes, schools with fewer than 25 pupils on roll, and college attendance for senior phase pupils.

Union representatives raised the importance of mitigating measures in schools and the consistency thereof. Key areas raised were the use of medical grade face coverings, PPE and ventilation.
Phase 2 of a return to in-school learning was discussed, with an emphasis on the need for consideration of the four harms. It was highlighted that the most likely ‘shape’ of phase 2 would include the remainder of primary schools on a full-time basis and the remainder of the senior phase on a part-time basis.

Update on guidance for practical subjects in the senior phase

Education Scotland updated on the development of this guidance, due for publication the following day. It is based on allowing access to in-school learning for young people  who require access to specialised resources, equipment or face-to-face teaching to be able to complete assessment work required for SQA certification. The technical guidance emphasises that where learning and teaching can feasibly be completed at home, it should be. 

Update from the Children and Families Leadership Group

CERG was introduced to the purpose and work of the Children and Families Leadership Group, highlighting its collaborative multi-agency approach to recovery, and supporting both vulnerable and newly vulnerable people across Scotland.

Update from GTCS on student and probationer teachers

A summary was provided of work underway to support student teachers and probationers throughout the current and the next academic year. Challenges were raised around reduced placement times and the medium-term impact this could have on individuals and the sector.  

The impact on the education workforce supporting these student and probationer teachers was also raised. 

Next meeting: 18 February 2021

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