COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 3 June 2021

Minutes from 3 June 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, Scottish Government 
  • Jean Blair, Scottish Qualifications Authority 
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Alison Cumming, Interim Director of Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Jamie Dunlop, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA
  • Liam Fowley, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • 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) 
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Elizabeth Morrison, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Pentland, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA 
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS) 
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE
  • Margaret Wilson, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting and reminded everyone that, given the full agenda today, discussion will need to remain focused.  

Minutes of the previous meeting

Any feedback from the draft minutes requested. As no comments made the Cabinet Secretary recommended collective approval.


Public Health Scotland shared an update on data from across Scotland. As with the previous week, there was an overall rise in cases recorded. Positive results were predominately recorded in the unvaccinated groups in society, including children. However, hospital admissions remained low. It was noted that new infections recorded were mainly due to the Delta variant. The statistics showed some consistent themes with the data published in England. 

There was a slight decrease in the numbers of reported LFD tests taken by school-age pupils. 

The percentage of teachers vaccinated has now been analysed and it is predicted that, with the new 8 weeks between jabs regime now in place, 85% of teachers will have been vaccinated by August this year, when schools start the next academic year. The background information required for monitoring for other school staff and for staff in ELC settings is not yet available but this is being followed up. 

It was noted that it is still important that there is clear and regular messaging and communications about the protection levels and compliance with mitigating measures. 

Feedback from CERG members

Concerns were raised about the lack of visibility regarding progress and timescales for the additional payment for teachers associated with the ACM. Officials confirmed this is being taken forward and further information is to be published in the near future. The payment had been agreed to be awarded after the assessment period had been completed.

Update from the Advisory Sub-Group and Contingency Planning working group.

Advisory Sub-Group

An update was given by officials. The last meeting had included items on vaccinations policy and the use of face coverings in schools. An offer was made for a similar discussion led by vaccination colleagues at a future CERG meeting, which was welcomed.

Given increased uncertainty regarding the delta variant, the policy on face coverings is recommended to remain in place until the end of term and until further information is available. 

The meeting had also considered the issue of school leavers’ events and a potential modification to guidance to permit senior phase 'milestone' events such as end-of-school proms. Advice from the subgroup suggested that any such adjustment would need to be aligned with guidance for community events. Advice also recommended no change for primary schools given the range of creative solutions already in place. 

Concern was raised by members on mixed messaging and the relative lateness of any change. Many local authorities had already given schools the message of no events to be held, and schools were adhering to this and were designing alternatives. It was agreed that LA and schools will follow their existing guidance, meaning events like proms and indoor events will not be encouraged. Events already planned in a safe manner and consistent with guidelines can go ahead.

Contingency Planning Group

An update was provided by officials. The approach agreed that as much certainty as possible would be communicated by end of June (with suitable caveats to explain that more detail would need to follow). The working assumption is that all areas will be in level 0 in August and mitigating measures in schools will gradually move to be in step with society levels. Schools will therefore be told that they should apply current mitigation measures in August for the start of the school year with a gradual move to an agreed baseline over the first term. The contingency working group will continue to work to identify a balanced and practical arrangements for easing protection measures from August onwards. 

This approach was broadly welcomed by members. 

Early Learning and Childcare settings

An update was presented to the meeting. The sector has responded well to the need for appropriate mitigating measures and work is now underway to identify whether and how to ease some measures over the summer for those settings that remain open. It is clear that some measures may have been disruptive and had an impact on the richness of the children's experiences. This would be taken into consideration as work continued to look at ways to peg mitigating measures to local levels of protection. The enhanced cleaning regimes have worked really well and the sector is looking towards embedding these in national standards in the longer term. 

Members noted that mitigating arrangements could be complicated this year with schools opening for summer activities and with some schools being attached to ELC settings which are open as normal. It was agreed that coherence in the guidance to both settings was critical and that publication would ideally be as dovetailed as possible. 

The current training programme is being refreshed and it was agreed that it was important that training time for staff must be factored in to the working day wherever possible.  

Update on Alternative Certification Model 

The new appeals process is planned to be opened once the provisional grades are released. Young people leaving to enter the workplace or going on to further education will be prioritised with completion date of appeals consideration being set for 7 September for these categories. There is also a contingency plan in place for those young people whose assessment period has been particularly disrupted, with a later certification opportunity with provisional results being submitted by September. All learners will be receiving a letter from SQA explaining what support will be available to them and additional information on the appeals process will be published shortly. 

Concern was expressed that there is currently no clear indication on the approach that universities would take over conditional offers. It was noted that a statement from Universities Scotland had been released and this would be circulated to members.

Any other business

No matters were raised and the meeting concluded

Next meeting: 10 June 2021

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