COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 29 July 2021

Minutes from 29 July 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)  
  • Stuart Brown, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)   
  • Jane Brumpton, Early Years Scotland   
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland   
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES)   
  • Greg Dempster Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)  
  • Andy Drought, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government 
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA  
  • 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)   
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland  
  • Niamh O’Connor, Deputy Director, Covid Testing and Contact Tracing Policy, SG
  • Eileen Scott, Public Health Scotland  
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON 
  • Pauline Stephen, Chief Executive, GTCS 
  • Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority  
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)   
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) 


  • Sam Anson
  • Larry Flanagan (Stuart Brown attending)
  • Graeme Logan
  • Grace Vickers
  • Ben McKendrick
  • Liam Fowley MSYP
  • Diane Stockton
  • Fiona Robertson (Gill Stewart attending)
  • John Gallacher (Kay Sillars attending)

Items and actions

1.  Introduction  

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2.  Minutes of Previous meeting  

The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

3.  Standing Items Data and Feedback 

3a. Data  

Public Health Scotland provided a brief update on data including positive test results, transmission rates and hospitalisations in children and young people.  

Vaccination trends

An update on teacher vaccination rates was provided. It was noted that data on the wider workforce was still under development. Requests had been made to partners including unions to share data to permit the development of equivalent information for the wider workforce.

As of 17th July, 94% teachers have had their first dose and 53% have had their second dose. Projecting forward, it is estimated that around 85% of teachers who have taken up the offer of a first dose of vaccination will have been offered both doses of the vaccine and therefore should have developed a second dose response by 16th August (79% of the teacher population in Scotland), and this will increase to 90% by 23rd August (85% of the teacher population). The projected trend indicated that by late September all teachers who had opted to receive a first dose would have received their second dose and passed the ‘response building time’.

3b. Feedback from CERG  

The feedback paper was noted.

4.  Preparing for the new school term  

4a. Summary of progress

The Cabinet Secretary offered an update on considerations around the expected move beyond Level Zero, and implications for schools. A key focus was ensuring, wherever possible, equity in the application of mitigation measures in schools and wider society, and continuing assurance that any measures in place were necessary and proportionate. 

4b. Update on Guidance for schools

Officials summarised the main measures in refreshed draft guidance, which had been developed with input from CERG members. It was confirmed that, in line with developing public health advice, the majority of current mitigations would be likely to remain in place for up to six weeks of the new term. This position would be reviewed regularly, and in any case after 6 weeks.

However, there were some important changes to guidance that would be expected to be in place at the start of the new school year:  

  • contact tracing and identification of close contacts – it was expected that contact tracing would be more targeted towards situations where transmission was more likely, such as overnight contact, household contact and contact through the provision of care
  • amended self-isolation requirements – it was expected that young people identified as a close contact would be required to take a PCR test and to self-isolate until test results were received. If the PCR test result were negative, the young person would be able to return to school. If the test were positive, or if they became symptomatic, they would be required to follow the up-to-date self-isolation advice. This approach would significantly reduce the amount of time that many young people had to self-isolate for.
  • physical distancing – the requirement was expected to be for at least one metre distancing; however, guidance would make clear that schools could retain the two-metre distancing if this is not educationally disruptive
  • groupings – the requirement for maintaining designated groupings would be removed in the event that the approach to contact tracing changed. However, school assemblies and similar large-scale events would not be permitted for up to 6 weeks. This reflected the unique features of the school environment. 
  • school visitors – the current requirements would remain, except that guidance would make clear that parents could accompany children transitioning from ELC to P1 where this was clearly necessary to support children, e.g. if they were experiencing anxiety, and the school agreed it in advance

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions to the development of the guidance over the past few weeks.

4c. Update on Communications and Marketing Activity 

An update was offered on communications and marketing activity underway or planned ahead of the new term. Two main avenues – digital and face to face routes – would be used. The digital campaign would commence for the beginning of term.  Materials would also be made available directly to schools. The face-to-face work was underway and would continue in the form of Q&A sessions and webinars with key stakeholders (e.g. “blethers”). Suggestions and comments were welcomed and those in attendance were asked to share feedback with officials before the start of the new school year. 

5.  Update on Education Recovery Strategy/Plan

An update on work on the Education Recovery Strategy/Plan was provided. The paper presented was a work in progress; however, significant progress had been made as a result of members’ timely and extensive contributions. It was proposed that a further updated version would be circulated for final comment prior to publication. Cllr McCabe noted that stakeholders had been given constructive opportunities to inform the strategy and this was being reflected in the development of the strategy. The Cabinet Secretary closed the discussion by thanking everyone for their contributions and work and she encouraged members to continue with their valuable input. 

Any Other Business  

None raised. 

Next meeting   

The next meeting would be 12 August. The Cabinet Secretary indicated that she and her co-chair, Cllr McCabe, had agreed that the meetings would remain fortnightly to 12 August but would revert back to weekly after this. The frequency would be reviewed as the new term progressed. 

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