COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 2 December 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery group, held on 2 December 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
  • Professor Linda Bauld, Chair of the Advisory Sub Group on Education and Children’s Issues
  • Professor Marion Bain, Senior Public Health Adviser to Scottish Government
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government
  • Laura Caven, CoSLA
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Chelsey Clay, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • 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)
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS


Apologies were received from:

  • Liam Fowley MSYP
  • Sophie Reid MSYP

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting, particularly Prof Linda Bauld and Prof Marion Bain. 

Councillor McCabe also welcomed the group to the meeting and expressed relief at the stable data over the last couple of weeks, whilst also highlighting the need for vigilance in the face of Coronavirus’ unpredictability.

Minutes of previous meeting  

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed with a minor amendment regarding the approach to restarting inspections. On this subject, it was noted that Education Scotland hoped to issue a further communication to the system in the coming days.

Data and update from public health experts and clinicians

The 12 to 15 age group showed notable variation in vaccine uptake across levels of deprivation, with vaccine uptake declining as deprivation increased. The data indicates that 80% of this age group has probable antibodies at the recommended minimum.

16 to 17 Age group showed 95% probable antibodies at minimum level. For this group and the 12 to 15 age group, diagnosed infection rates are stabilising.

It was noted that unvaccinated people are four times more likely to be hospitalised with coronavirus (COVID-19) than double vaccinated people.

Linda Bauld updated the group on the Omicron variant noting that we can identify Omicron cases extremely quickly and more will be known about transmission, severity and immune escape in coming weeks.

Marion Bain noted that there was no strong suggestion at present that Omicron produces a more severe illness and reiterated that vaccination should continue to be progressed as much as possible.

Linda Bauld returned to the issue of rates of vaccination across different sectors of society, and the group agreed that this was a matter of high importance.

Colin Sumpter outlined the approach to contact tracing and self-isolation, including the current need to use intense surveillance around a small number of cases. He also referenced the requirement for close contacts of suspected omicron cases to need to self-isolate for 10 days, and highlighted that there was also limited contact tracing of secondary contacts.

Points of feedback included:

  • the need to encourage more effective communication to encourage vaccination, including the benefit of reduced staff absences
  • pressures on the workforce due to levels of staff absences
  • challenges with the vaccination online booking portal
  • the expected publication of an EIS survey on ventilation the following week
  • ongoing concerns about ventilation requirements (open windows) and classroom temperatures
  • concern regarding the implications of self-isolation approaches on NQ ‘22

Action points included:

  • clarification to be sought via WIG/SNCT re the position of ‘no detriment’ on the school workforce who are on holiday over festive break and unexpectedly forced to quarantine
  • WIG to progress work to establish whether absence/attendance can be split into primary/secondary schools
  • determine whether there is still scope to influence the new adverts aimed at CYP
  • PHS to review the position re pregnant staff and working from home guidance

Feedback from CERG

The paper was noted.

Any other business

It was agreed that CERG would continue to meet fortnightly but stand ready to reconvene as required in coming weeks.

Next meeting

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions and closed the meeting. Next meeting 16 December.

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