COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 18 March 2021

Minutes and papers from 18 March 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 
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland 
  • Simon Cameron, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth and Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Andy Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA
  • John Gallacher, UNISON
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland   
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland
  • Amy Harron, Scottish Government
  • Carrie Lindsay, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), Presiden
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Simon Mair, Scottish Government
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Elizabeth Morrison, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) 
  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA 
  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • 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 48 [Paper 1]

Part II: 10 minutes     

Weekly feedback/ongoing monitoring    

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

Part III: 40 minutes   

Phase 2 return – reflections / intel on the return this week

Update from CERG working group [Paper 3]   

  • Phase 3 planning / timelines     
  • stocktake on previously agreed actions 
  • forward look / post-Easter issues to address 

Comms update (carried over from previous meeting) - [Paper 4]

Activity over the summer supported by an information paper [Paper 5] on delivering wellbeing activities and support, with the same level of urgency and priority as delivery of lessons, as learners come back to school

 Part IV: 5 minutes     

AOB and next meeting on 25 March 




Increases seen in the test positivity in children and young people could be influenced by the increases seen in the level of testing being undertaken, including the testing of their contacts and of mass testing when outbreaks occur.  It should also be noted that although the number of positive cases is increasing in these age groups, we are not seeing increases in the associated markers of clinical disease in these groups.

The Health Secretary has agreed to extend testing to S1-S3 pupils as further means of reassurance in addition to the mitigations already in place.  Next meeting (25 March) to focus on trends in data and application of mitigations.

Return to in-person learning

Phase 2 of the return to school this week has gone well, and the DFM recognised the huge commitment from staff and school leaders. The First Minister also announced further plans this week, including the priority of returning schools to full-time operation following the Easter break. This will of course be subject to evidence and further advice on physical distancing in schools and virus levels. 

Guidance relating to the further reopening of schools is planned to be published next week. Members agreed that it was important to continue to review the data and conditions before committing to a further reopening.  The overall prevalence in society and vaccination profile is such that the Scottish Government currently believes we can take the steps to resume. Advice from the COVID-19 Advisory Sub Group on Education and Children’s Issues next week will be important to these considerations.

It was confirmed that contingency plans are in place should the further reopening not be supported, though the planning assumption is a full return after Easter at this stage.


There has been much value in partnership working on communications, raising awareness and emphasising the evidence that supports policies, with a particular focus on mental health and wellbeing.  This plays a key role in reducing anxiety, but also highlights the importance of adherence to mitigation measures. Particular thanks were extended to the National Parent Forum of Scotland for their central role communications activity in recent weeks and months.

There was an appetite to have more joined up messaging around education recovery and national qualifications, which would be welcomed by all.

Summer activities

There was a very constructive discussion about plans being developed for a programme of activities over the summer to support fun and wellbeing as a key component of learning. There are strands of work on outdoor learning and supporting wellbeing.

All were keen to turn the narrative from the more negative “lost learning” towards positivity and aspiration. This includes not necessarily talking about ‘catching up’ or focusing on classroom-based learning, but focusing more on what young people feel they need to support their wellbeing and reconnect with peers and with education in general.  

There was broad support for more collaborative discussion, at pace, to shape these ideas into a coherent proposition, led by educators and the views of young people.

Next meeting: 25 March 2021

This will include a focus on trends in data, and compliance with existing mitigations.

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