COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 14 January 2021

Minutes and papers from 14 January 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) 
  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland 
  • Jean Blair, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Alison Cumming, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Greg Dempster, General Secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Lynda Fenton, Public Health Scotland
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • John Gallacher, Unison
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland 
  • Gillian Hamilton, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Carrie Lindsay, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) 
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government  
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Janie McManus, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Elizabeth Morrison, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) 
  • Malcolm Pentland, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority 
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • Carol Tannahill, Chief Social Policy Advisor, Scottish Government
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS) 
  • 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 39 [paper 1] 

Part II: 50 minutes  

Weekly feedback/ongoing monitoring 

  • MI data [paper 2a] 
  • weekly feedback [paper 2b] 
  • update on actions/next steps [paper 2c]

Short update from the Advisory Sub Group meeting on 12 Jan – SG 

Feedback from CERG working groups on return to in-person learning – SG [paper 3] 

National Qualifications: update presentation from NQ21 Group - SQA   

Update on remote learning – ES 

Part IV: 5 minutes  

AOB and next meeting on 21 January  

Proposed agenda items for January meetings- TBC



Surveillance and feedback

In comparison to the previous week, there are lower numbers of cases amongst 2-17 year olds. Numbers across the population continue to show that the rate of cases remains lower amongst children and young people than other age groups. 

Update from the Advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues

It was confirmed that a headteacher has now joined the Advisory sub-group, and will attend meetings going forward.

It was recognised that internationally, where community transmission rates remain low, this is also reflected in schools. Therefore, the sub-group will be seeking assurances on lower levels of community transmission ahead of advising to reopen schools.

The impact of remote learning on mental health was raised.

A return to in-person provision

An update was provided from a working group on the return to in-person provision. This work is being taken forward following the stated outcome that schools . nurseries will be the first things to reopen in society, and that at the appropriate juncture, it may be a phased return.

The Deputy First Minister made clear that a return to in-person provision for all - or for phased groups - would only occur once the evidence shows that it is safe to do so. Specifically, he stated there would be three areas of consideration behind that decision:

  • levels of community transmission (and related health indicators)
  • evidence on transmissibility of the new variant in relation to CYP
  • long-standing evidence on the harms of schools being closed

Several points were raised for consideration in relation to this work, including that priority groups may change over time, the impact of the vaccination programme, certification for senior phase pupils, whether face-to-face counselling services would be able to resume at the same time, and the impact of fortnightly reviews on planning for teaching and learning.

It was agreed to revisit this work at the next meeting.

Update from National Qualifications 2021 

An update was provided on the work being carried out by the NQ21 Group and Working Group. It was noted that the longer the period of remote learning for most senior phase pupils lasts, the greater the risk to the sustainability of the alternative certification model (ACM) that has been developed for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. The NQ21 Group is concentrating on what options exist in terms of removing elements of the ACM as planned and is looking at timings in relation the submitting of estimates. There are concerns around the ability to gather evidence and during the period of remote learning the focus has to be on learning and teaching and formative assessment.  

Other considerations are the impact of any changes to the approach taken on the appeals process for 2021.

There remain understandable concerns around uncertainty for both students and school staff. CERG welcomed the work going on by the NQ 21 Group at pace around scenario planning and additional flexibilities.  Further communications would issue as soon as possible.

Remote learning

Education Scotland updated that guidance on remote learning had been published, including content on the quality and effectiveness of remote learning. There is also ongoing work to engage further with LAs, school staff and parents.

The need to emphasise the difference between online learning and remote learning was recognised, with online learning only a part of remote learning. In relation to live lessons specifically, it was also recognised that there is duty of care towards teachers in this context that may require further consideration. 

Next meeting: 21 January 2021

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