COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 2 September 2021

Minutes from 2 September 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.

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)   
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government   
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • 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, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government  
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)   
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA    
  • Liam Fowley MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament  
  • John Gallacher, UNISON 
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland 
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland  
  • Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People 
  • Julie Humphreys, Deputy Director, Children and Young People Covid Recovery
  • Jamie MacDougall SG Vaccines Policy and Strategy
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament  
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government  
  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive, GTCS   
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland    
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA   
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)    
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE 
  • James Wilson, SG COVID Testing and Contact Tracing Policy
  • Margaret Wilson Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)


  • Janie McManus
  • Education Scotland

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting. This meeting was an opportunity to review the data with a specific focus on how to ensure good compliance with mitigations. The Cabinet Secretary stated that there had been increased focus on this issue at ministerial level considering the current level of in cases in the wider community and in individual sectors.  

Cllr McCabe stated that reinforcing the messaging around compliance was very important and that CoSLA would be very happy to support education settings to ensure compliance to current mitigations. 

Minutes of previous meeting  

The minutes were approved. 

Data and feedback 

Data, return to school and communications activity 

The meeting received a presentation from Public Health Scotland (PHS). Vaccination statistics indicated that 49.7% of the 16 - 17 age group and 53.1% of the 12 - 15 age group in the high risk category had received their vaccination (as of 31.08.21). 

Overall the numbers of hospitalisations had risen but were still at a much lower rate than before the vaccination programme. The largest number of admissions were in the unvaccinated population and there had been a slight rise in the numbers of admission in children. Encouragingly, COVID recorded deaths still remained very low.  

The rise in cases reported showed a plateau in the 18 - 21 age group, which had been leading the overall increase in younger people. There was, however, no evidence of cases reported in children levelling off at present.   

A number of reports and studies had recently been published that gave further understanding of risks around transmission of adults-to-children and children-to-children, as well as a study on the safety of the teachers workforce throughout the previous academic year. Further studies e.g., transmission from children to adults, were ongoing. Those papers had been shared with CERG members for information. 

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that she had meet with PHS colleagues and SG officials regarding self-isolation policy following last week’s CERG meeting. The public health position is that the current policy for children and young people remains appropriate given the high levels of vaccination in the associated adult population. However, there will be ongoing work to ensure better understanding with the implementation of the updated approach to self-isolation. Separately the First Minister had also asked the Chief Medical Officer to review the self-isolation policy to ensure that this is the most effective approach for education settings. 

The Cabinet Secretary drew the meetings’ attention to paper 3 which outlined proposed communication activity. This includes a series of upcoming webinar events with clinicians and stakeholder groups.  

Cllr McCabe noted the uptake rate of vaccination for 16 – 17 year olds had tailed off slightly, which emphasised the need to promote and to make vaccination accessible for this group. It was confirmed that the Youth Parliament were working on identifying why young people are not taking the vaccine, with a view to targeting communications more effectively.

High absence rates amongst both pupils and staff were highlighted, with recognition that this may require further balance of in-school and remote learning.  

It was noted that there was still inconsistency in the use of the 'Warn and Inform' letter, and colleagues in LAs and in Health Protection Teams were working on clarity in the letters and to share good practice.

The Cabinet Secretary indicated that there would be a review meeting by the Advisory Sub-Group on 7 September. The Advisory Sub-Group would be taking a comprehensive and thorough review of all the evidence and data. It was also important to note that this was part of a continuous cycle of review and appraisal. The Advisory Sub-Group would be looking at the data through the lens of the four harms strategy and the Sub-Group, clinicians and health professionals were very conscious of the balance between risk and the harms from disrupted learning. It was also emphasised that the conversation should be in the context of mitigations across wider society, children's rights, wellbeing and educational future, with the view that any advice must be proportional and taken within an overall perspective of balancing harm and risk.  

Feedback from CERG 

Ventilation. It was noted that progress has been made on the rollout of CO2 monitoring, with consideration being given to sharing best practice across schools and local authorities. 
National examinations. The Youth Parliament noted that there remains anxiety over exams amongst young people. The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that further details will be provided in coming weeks. 

Any other business  

There was no other business raised.  

Next meeting    

Next meeting 9th September 2021. This will feature an update from the Advisory Sub Group and an update on vaccinations in young people. 

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