Publication - Minutes

COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 17 June 2021

Published: 3 Aug 2021
Date of meeting: 17 Jun 2021

Minutes from 17 June 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.

Published:
3 Aug 2021
COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 17 June 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees: 

  • 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 and Kinross Council (ADES)  
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA 
  • Liam Fowley, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament 
  • John Gallacher, UNISON 
  • 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  
  • Eileen Scott, NHS Health Scotland
  • 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) 

Items and actions

Introduction  

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting, noting that there were a number of substantive issues to be covered in this meeting, including updates from recent meetings elsewhere. 

Minutes of previous meeting  

Two points of omission were raised. The minutes would be amended to reflect these. The minutes were approved subject to the noted amendments. 

Standing items data and feedback 

Data  

The meeting received a presentation from Public Health Scotland colleagues. 

Vaccinations 

There have been good uptake rates in the 50+ age group and the 40+ age group. Currently 68% of the 39+ age group and 30% of the 18-29 age group have had at least their first dose. It was noted that approximately 1/3 of the 18 - 29 age group have now registered for the vaccination programme, and the target for the 18 - 29 age group was for the first dose to have been administered by mid-July. 

Two recently released reports on the effectiveness of vaccines indicate a high degree of effectiveness against the Delta variant. Of particular note is that efficacy for the Pfizer vaccination, which will be used for under 40s age groups, was 94% on the first dose and 96% on the second dose.   

Cases 

The data indicated that the number of cases and the testing levels were still increasing in some cohorts. The numbers of cases have stabilised in the primary school age group. The rates for the older groups, however, particularly in the 18 - 21 age group, were rising. This data is echoed in recently released Public Health England data. The data from the ELC sector had remained consistent over the last two weeks. 

In terms of LFT test results, 30% of adults and 5% of pupils were reporting results, with the rate of PCR positive results being reported remaining similar to previous data. The LFT reporting rate still remains lower than we would like. 

Absence data is based on information obtained through self-reporting and school workforce reporting. There may be some discrepancies in the data between: i) cases reported, and ii) school staff absences, as school staff absences include confirmed cases and absences due to 'COVID-like symptoms’. 

The view was reiterated by some members that the data above supported the prioritisation of teachers for vaccination.

It was noted that recently there had been a more proactive approach to school closures and large-scale isolation requirements imposed by Health Protection teams. This had led to an increase of significant incidents being recorded. 

Members suggested that they had detected a change in SG messaging regarding Covid, with a move towards 'living with virus' rather than maximum suppression. The Cabinet Secretary noted that there had not been a change in emphasis, but that the Cabinet remained conscious of looking at decisions on a four harms basis. 

Cllr McCabe noted that there were possible opportunities and risks associated with efforts to suppress transmission over the summer holiday period, and that these would need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.  

Feedback from CERG  

The ELC sector would appreciate publication of the updated COVID guidance as soon as possible to assist with their forward planning for numbers over summer and for the new starts in autumn.  The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that this report would be published shortly. 

Payment of £400: This matter would be taken forward by officials and stakeholders separate from the CERG meetings. 

Extension of probationers contracts: This would be considered separately from CERG meetings.  

SQA: There has been further discussion around assessments/examinations for 2020. Work was also being undertaken with ADES to address concerns from Scottish Colleges on the processes to release provisional marks to college students. 

Update from the Advisory Sub-Group 

An update was provided by officials from the meeting of the Advisory Subgroup on Tuesday 15th June. The meeting had considered the following issues: 

  • challenges and impact of self-isolation on education outcomes for children and young people. The subgroup advised that they would progress work to assess ways to minimise the need for healthy children to isolate while also taking appropriate action to manage health harms
  • clinical concern over the impact COVID has had on the access to wellbeing and health support services for children with chronic illness and disabilities 
  • clinical concern around the possible effects of other respiratory disease on children over the winter months, as the effect of isolation on normal exposure to viruses will have on children's immune system development, is still unclear 
  • studies to date are indicating that the prevalence of Long Covid in children is not high, and that this could have a lesser impact than a rise in other respiratory diseases and conditions

Education Recovery Strategy Group

A paper was presented to the meeting. This paper outlined the first draft for the Terms of Reference. It was important to ensure that there was a correct balance between breadth/depth of work with the timings of delivery and implementation. The paper was welcomed, while noting that the proposed timing was challenging. 

The Cabinet Secretary stated that the work may have to be carried out in phases, with the initial output in August followed by ongoing work to look to the longer term. 

The members of the meeting were invited to volunteer as members of this new group.

Education Scotland paper on workforce support 

The report was presented to the meeting by ES colleagues. Main considerations from the discussion at the meeting were: 

  • continue to provide support where needed
  • reach out to the remaining members/sectors of the workforce 
  • continue to develop partnership approaches  
  • target support for different sections of workforce, including non-teaching staff 
  • work on enhancing mental health and wellbeing support 
  • a revised workforce plan and package of support to be delivered for the new term 
  • take action to raise awareness of support available 
  • reflect upon the long-term demand and sustainability of support 

Any other business  

AOB none raised. 

Cabinet Secretary concluded meeting and invited members to send any agenda items to the Secretariat that wished to be considered for the summer meetings. 

Next meeting

The next meeting date: 1st July.  

The meetings will be fortnightly over the summer holiday period.