COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 4 March 2021

Minutes and papers from 4 March 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.

Attendees and apologies


  • John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)  
  • Councillor Stephen McCabe, Children and Young People spokesperson, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, Scottish Government
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, Scottish Government
  • Alison Cumming, Director of Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government
  • Alan Armstrong, Education Scotland
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, General Secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Fiona Robertson, Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Sheena Devlin, Executive Director, Perth & Kinross Council (ADES) 
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) 
  • Liam Fowley, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) 
  • John Gallacher, Regional Manager, UNISON 
  • Gillian Hamilton, Strategic Director, Education Scotland
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland   
  • Carrie Lindsay, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), President 
  • Elizabeth Morrison, Deputy Director, Scottish Government 
  • Ken Muir, Chief Executive, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) 
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Pauline Stephen, General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland
  • Matthew Sweeney, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)  
  • Eddie Follan, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Dr Grace Vickers, Solace
  • Professor Carol Tannahill, Chief Social Policy Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Margaret Wilson, Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Dr Nicola Steedman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Part I: 5 minutes   

Welcome from DFM   

Minutes of previous meeting CERG 46 [Paper 1]   

Part II: 10 minutes

Weekly feedback/ongoing monitoring    

  • MI data [Paper 2a]    
  • weekly feedback [Paper 2b]   

Part III: 40 minutes     

Announcement on 2 March – next phase - DFM 

  • short verbal readout from Advisory Sub Group – Prof Carol Tannahill
  • update on JCVI Phase 2 vaccinations advice – Nicola Steedman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer

Reducing Risks in Schools Guidance – Kit Wyeth, SG

Update on asymptomatic testing for staff/pupils - Andy Drought, SG 

Part IV: 5 minutes     

AOB and next meeting on 11 March         



Management information 

Officials shared that following the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 amongst 2–17-year-olds the previous week, there was a decrease in test positivity for most child age groups this week. Overall, there was a decrease in positivity rate per 100,000 population. However, 16–17-year-olds saw a slight increase in positivity and positivity rate.

Almost 45% of school staff have participated in lateral flow testing since implementation with 0.04% of tests taken resulting in a positive result confirmed by PCR. Testing has also increased among P1-P3 pupils and positivity rates reduced.

There have been further increases in the percentage of cases who are education staff, and who have been in an educational setting, since the new year. Figures are still below those observed in November 2020.

Public Health Scotland showed a presentation to members highlighting current data on lateral flow testing and Covid-19 cases by local authority area. The intention is to share further intel on any outbreaks reported for monitoring purposes on a weekly basis. 

Update on return to in-person learning – next phase

The Deputy First Minister introduced the item by explaining that, due to the improving situation in terms of the wider prevalence of the virus, Ministers decided that there was greater scope to move further than originally planned in terms of the next phase of return to in-person learning. This was consistent with our stated ambition to have as many children and young people receive in-school learning as it was safe to do so.

An announcement was made on 2 March stating that all remaining primary school children would return to school full-time from 15 March, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis from that date. Ministers recognise the wider harms of the lack of in-person learning and know the positive effects that some in-school interaction will be for the health and wellbeing of all children and young people. However, it is important to note that the plans for phase two are conditional on continued progress on suppressing the virus.

Professor Carol Tannahill provided an update on the latest work of the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues. A note was published on 3 March following the announcement on phase two the day before. This note sets out advice and mitigations for the next phase. 

The sub-group recognises that there needs to be sufficient data from phase one to fully understand the effects of those changes. There will need to be ongoing monitoring of the data prior to the 15 March to ensure that decision remains appropriate. The sub-group identified some key principles, in terms of making that decision: 

  • no actions should be taken that will risk increasing the R number over 1
  • any decision on phase two should be postponed if there is a sustained increase in cases
  • there is a need to ensure that vulnerable children can still access the support that they need

The Deputy First Minister highlighted the importance of taking a cautious approach and ensuring that the data is closely monitored over the next week. All partners should clearly and openly communicate any decisions taken to school staff, parents, carers and children and young people. An update on recent comms activity will be brought to a future meeting of CERG in order to reflect on how all decisions and changes are being communicated.  

Dr Nicola Steedman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, provided an update on the JCVI interim advice on phase two of the vaccination programme. It was highlighted that JCVI did not take this decision lightly and considered other approaches such as vaccination by occupation. However, the decision for the next phase was taken based on the evidence that suggests that an age-based approach remains the most effective way of reducing death and hospitalisation from COVID-19. JCVI also agreed that mass vaccination targeting occupational groups, such as teachers and school staff would be more complex to deliver and may slow down the vaccine programme, leaving some more vulnerable people at higher risk unvaccinated for longer.

Lastly, officials provided an update on the latest school's guidance for the next phase. The intention is to publish a supplementary version on Monday 8 March. Officials thanked members for their contributions to that document thus far. 

Next meeting: 11 March 2021


COVID-19 Education Recovery Group

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