Publication - Minutes

COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 4 November 2021

Date of meeting: 4 Nov 2021
Date of next meeting: 18 Nov 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery group, held on 4 November 2021.

COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 4 November 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • 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)  
  • Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People
  • Sam Anson, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government   
  • Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
  • Simon Cameron, CoSLA
  • Chelsey Clay, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Craig Clement, Education Scotland
  • Greg Dempster, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) 
  • Sheena Devlin, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)  
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive and Chief Inspector, Education Scotland 
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government  
  • Douglas Hutchison, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)  
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director of Early Learning & Childcare, SG
  • Sophie Reid, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
  • Kay Sillars, UNISON
  • Pauline Stephen, GTCS
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland  
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Grace Vickers, SOLACE   
  • Margaret Wilson, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) 

Apologies   

Apologies were received from:

  • Liam Fowley MSYP – Sophie Reid MSYP in attendance
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Gillian Hamilton, Education Scotland

Items and actions

Introduction

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted that Sophie Reed MSYP would be attending the meetings in November in place of Liam Fowley. The Cabinet Secretary also welcomed Douglas Hutchison to the meeting in his new role as president of ADES and expressed the group’s thanks to Carrie Lindsay for her previous work with the group.

Cllr McCabe welcomed everyone and reiterated those thanks to Carrie Lindsay for her valuable contributions to the meetings.

Minutes of previous meeting

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

Standing items; data and feedback 

Data

Covid indicators

Vaccination uptake was now 75.5% in 16 to 17 year-olds and 54.5% in the 12 to15 year-olds. This was a very good start to the vaccination programme for 12 to 15 years old. It was noted that the issue of any extension of the vaccination programme to under 12's would be for JCVI to address as appropriate.

Overall, the number of deaths was beginning to decline slightly, and the number of hospital admissions had plateaued after a spike in September. The numbers of hospital admissions for children was now declining after a September spike.

In terms of rates of cases there had been a broad decline for people under 20 years old but this was beginning to level off in the last few days. There was still evidence of a decline in the number of cases in secondary school pupils; however, there was a plateauing in the cases in 11 to 15 year-olds. The cases were still widely dispersed across local authorities and continued to reflect the wider picture in society.

It was confirmed that the Scottish Government modelling team were looking at longer-term trend models, but that there were a number of particular factors at the moment - e.g. COP26 and the impact of the vaccine booster programme - which created additional levels of uncertainty.

Vaccinations

It was reported that there were differences in approach across local health boards with regards to providing flu vaccinations to school staff in schools as part of the in-school vaccination provision.

It was also noted that a Covid outbreak in any one area could prove highly disruptive to teaching and learning.

Action: An update to be circulated to CERG members to include reference to the school based Covid vaccination programme for pupils, clarification on the position regarding flu vaccinations for school staff, and an update on the booster vaccination programme.

Feedback from CERG

The paper was noted.

Adherence to mitigations

The Cabinet Secretary reminded the meeting that the overall picture remained precarious at the moment, and that the First Minister had asked all Cabinet Secretaries to take measures to ensure that there was adherence and understanding of the need for mitigations in their areas of responsibility.

The Cabinet Secretary asked Sam Anson to present the paper.

It was highlighted that there are still factors ahead that may have an impact on rates, including COP26 and the likely increase in indoor activities with the approaching winter months and Christmas and New Year celebrations.

It was noted that mitigations in schools had been in place, largely unchanged, for a period of time now and that they were well embedded in school operations. However, there was no room for complacency and any ideas for enhancements to ensure continuing adherence would be welcomed.

It was suggested that continuous communications on the need to keep to mitigations and why this was important would be helpful to reinforce the message. It would be important to ensure that the messaging should be different in tone to previous communications so that it was more likely to have an impact. The ELC sector had provided a new video to its practitioners, and this was an idea that could be adapted for many other sectors as well as for schools.

It was noted that EIS were about to launch a members’ survey around health and wellbeing and findings from this would be shared with the group. 

There had now been a NPFS focus group on asymptomatic testing and messaging, and this had been successful with good feedback and interesting ideas from parents on how to enhance uptakes in schools. There was variance across local authorities and schools on the level of reminders on the importance of such testing to both parents and pupils, and more consistency in approach would be helpful. 

Further engagement with the Youth Parliament would also be considered by SG officials to focus on direct messaging to young people, and officials would be in touch with MSYP representatives post meeting.

There were two areas in which the guidance would need to be clarified as planning in schools was now underway:

  • mitigations around prelim examinations
  • mitigations around end of term and sessional activities

Action: Stakeholder discussions to be instigated by officials as soon as possible to address issues regarding prelims.

Update on guidance

For information, updated guidance would be issued in the near future to include administrative updates to ensure that the tone reflected the present position and that recent policy changes were incorporated.

Committee members noted that the end of term was a busy time for planning for schools and it would be helpful if the Scottish Government would be able to provide some form of certainty in the near future so that planning could take place with confidence.

Any other business

No matters were raised.

Next meeting   

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions and closed the meeting. Next meeting 18th November (10.00 start).