COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 30 September 2021

Minutes from 30 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)
  • Chelsey Clay, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland   
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth and Kinross Council (ADES)   
  • Greg Dempster Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)  
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)   
  • Liam Fowley MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • John Gallacher, UNISON   
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland 
  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People 
  • Carrie Lindsay, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)  
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Robertson, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON 
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland  
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)   
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) 

Apologies :

  • Graeme Logan (Director for Learning, Scottish Government)
  • Gayle Gorman (Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland)
  • Liam Fowley (MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament)

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting. The main focus of this meeting would be the data monitoring and a presentation about the modelling for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that an updated version of the guidance had been published this morning and this reflected the changes discussed last week regarding visitors to schools, including spectators at school sports events.

Cllr McCabe welcomed the downward trend in the numbers of cases and that he was looking forward to hearing about the approach to modelling within both the SG and PHS. 

Minutes of previous meeting  

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

Standing items, data and feedback 


As of 29 September, 12.7%, of 12-15 year olds had received one dose of the vaccine and 71.2% of 16-17 years olds had received one dose. The JCVI were actively discussing whether 16-17 year olds should be offered a second dose and were waiting for further data on the potential risks associated with this age group before making a decision. It was noted that there had not been much change in vaccination rates in the other age groups from the previous week.

Hospitalisations in wider society were beginning to come down following the decline in cases. It was noted that 40 - 50% of children presenting to hospital resulted in a same-day discharge.

There was a significant drop in cases being recorded for the under 20 age group. It was still the case that the majority of cases were in unvaccinated people but this was not as marked as it is for the level of hospitalisations. The case rates in children were continuing to fall and it was noted that overall, 48.9% of schools had not reported any cases in the 7-day period.

An analysis on data for transmission and infections for the year 2020/21 for ASN settings and ASN mainstream settings with ASN provision had been carried out. The analysis indicated that there was no additional risk in ASN settings than there were in mainstream settings with ASN provision (given the higher intimate contact requirements for these children) and this validated the enhanced mitigations that were in place. The Advisory Subgroup continued to monitor this sector and the Cabinet Secretary noted that she had asked Scottish Government officials to engage with the sector to establish what was working well and to share good practice.

Uptake data from the asymptomatic testing programme remained relatively low, and indicated a downward trend. It was reiterated that this may not be truly reflective of the number of tests actually being taken as people may not be reporting negative test results. It was suggested that the numbers of tests given out by schools may be a way to establish how many tests were being done in school settings/community.

Testing is an important part of the mitigations and it was important to understand in more detail the drivers behind these figures. LFT uptake had been discussed at the recent NPFS AGM and the Cabinet Secretary was happy to hear any suggestions on how the importance of testing, the confidence in the testing and the uptake of testing could be enhanced.


  • SG officials to investigate and report back to CERG in the next meeting

Feedback from CERG  

Feedback paper was noted

Modelling overview

Public Health Scotland 

The PHS modelling was focussed on short-term projections and based on current trends. They used an exponential model and they covered a three week period of data to predict a four week position. Experience had shown that this predictive model had been a reasonable fit with actual data and trends over this pandemic. They looked at several different aspects to inform NHS planning and this included the relationship between the number of cases and hospitalisations and projected admissions. They also looked at the 'Doubling Trends' to see how long it would take for cases to double or halve over a 2 week period.

Scottish Government modelling

The modelling comes from a mixture of sources; the benefit of a range of models is that it helps provide a consensus view by triangulation. The models provide a range of scenarios which are used to inform planning on such issues as the possible impact of COVID-19 on NHS planning, predicated daily infection rates, the potential need for ICU beds etc. The modelling is more complex than the PHS modelling to provide longer term predictions and trend analysis, and they are built to take into account external factors such the impacts of events taking place in wider society and the other factors such as the impact of policy interventions, the dampening effect of vaccination and the advent of new improved treatment for COVID patients. Going forward the impact of autumn and winter weather will be built into the models to ensure accuracy. 

In addition, there are two local models - Scottish Contact Survey and Waste Water Analysis. The Scottish Contact Survey is run by panels, designed to capture large sample size data, representative of society eg gender, age etc. The Waste Water Analysis has proved to be a good forward indicator of potential localised spikes in cases, when cross referenced with ONS national and local PCR test data. The final model looks at Long COVID and this is based on self-reporting by patients and ONS Survey data.

Although it was noted that it is extremely difficult to predict steep spikes in cases, the modelling has proven to be a reliable indicator when retrospectively compared to the actuality experienced throughout the pandemic. Analysis is being carried out to explain the recent steep spike within both local context but also in the four nation context. Hypotheses being considered are the length of time between the easing of restriction in Scotland being much nearer to school term than in other parts of the UK, the amount of testing being undertaken in Scotland, and also consideration of natural immunity levels in society. It is possible that England was more exposed to the virus earlier in the pandemic leading to more underlying asymptomatic infection than in the other nations and therefore more natural immunity has built up. 

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed the presentations and noted that it was reassuring that all the projections were pointing the right way. 

Any other business  

No matters were raised.

Next meeting   

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone and closed the meeting.

Next meeting 7 October. 


  • no meeting on 14th October
  • 09.00 start on 21st October 
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