COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 18 November 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery group, held on 18 November 2021.

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)
  • Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Chelsey Clay, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland 
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Janet Stewart, UNISON
  • Jane Moffat, Strategy, GIRFEC and The Promise Division
  • Douglas Hutchison, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director of Early Learning and Childcare, SG
  • Sophie Reid MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Victoria Smith, GTCS
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS


Apologies were received from:

  • Liam Fowley MSYP
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin, ADES
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting. Councillor McCabe particularly welcomed Laura Caven, who would be attending for CoSLA’s Children and Young People team.

Minutes of previous meeting

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

Standing items: data and feedback 


Covid indicators

There has been a week on week increase of approximately 1% in vaccination rates, to 56% of 12 to 15-year-olds and 76% of 16/17 year-olds. The uptake of booster vaccines was noted as being high among the 70+ and clinically extremely vulnerable, and there was discussion of extending the booster to those with underlying health conditions.

The positive effect of the booster vaccine was discussed, with evidence out of England suggesting that it boosts immunity well above peak level from the original two doses alone. Probable antibody protection levels continue to increase, and the overall picture is one of stabilising trends.


The importance of maintaining momentum, if possible, in the vaccination of 12 to 15 year-olds was noted, and the benefits of this on transmission recognised. There was some discussion about vaccine delivery in schools and community settings, and it was confirmed that the approach was variable depending on local circumstances. Schools can play a role in delivery, but experience in the rest of the UK suggests that in many instances it is more efficient to deliver vaccines in community settings.

It was queried if guidance was yet in place around vaccinations for five to 11 age group. It was confirmed that no vaccine has yet been licensed in the UK for this age group, though this is under active consideration by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). In parallel, the JCVI are looking at evidence in this area from other countries in anticipation of a vaccine becoming licensed for UK use.

Sophie Reid asked what is being done to provide friendly advice tailored to young people on vaccinations, and how young people have been involved in planning and developing information to assist in this endeavour. Derek Grieve in vaccines policy will liaise with Sophie and SYP colleagues to take this forward, building on engagement already undertaken with Young Scot.

Staff absence

Members again raised the issue of staff absences and requested a response on whether staff absence data can be split by setting. Consideration could perhaps be given to add a focus on operational impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks in schools into the recently launched marketing campaign.


  • SG, CoSLA and ADES officials to discuss staff absence data and report back at next meeting

School operations

Professional associations raised the concern that in some respects schools were expected to get back to ‘business as usual’, particularly in terms of inspection visits from HMI. This is particularly challenging at this time when there is still a high level of COVID-19 disruption on day-to-day activities.

Gillian Hamilton agreed to take this to the workforce group liaising with SG, CoSLA, ADES and professional associations.

Feedback from CERG

The paper was noted.

Any other business

The issue of recent tiktok trends in schools was raised, with concern for the wellbeing of staff. It was accepted that, as employers, LAs held a key role here, but support from SG would be welcomed. The Cabinet Secretary requested officials continue discussions to explore possible options.

Next meeting

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions and closed the meeting. Next meeting 2 December.

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