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COVID-19 Education Recovery Group minutes: 9 September 2021

Minutes from 9 September 2021 meeting of the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group.


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)   
  • Marion Bain, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government (for item 4a)
  • Beth Black, Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • 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)    
  • Andy Drought, Deputy Director, COVID Education Strategy and Recovery, Scottish Government  
  • Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)   
  • Eddie Follan, CoSLA    
  • Liam Fowley MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament  
  • Derek Grieve, Deputy Director, Vaccines Policy and Strategy, Scottish Government
  • Gayle Gorman, Education Scotland 
  • Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People 
  • Carrie Lindsay, President, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Ben McKendrick, Scottish Youth Parliament  
  • Sharon McLellan, President, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS)
  • Janie McManus, Education Scotland
  • Graeme Logan, Director for Learning, Scottish Government
  • Eleanor Passmore, Deputy Director, Early Learning and Childcare, Scottish Government  
  • Kay Sillars, Unison
  • Diane Stockton, Public Health Scotland    
  • Matthew Sweeney, CoSLA   
  • Professor Carol Tannahill, Chief Social Policy Adviser, Scottish Government (for item 4a)
  • Jim Thewliss, General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland (SLS)   
  • Margaret Wilson Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care (for item 4b)

Apologies

  • Sam Anson, Scottish Government,
  • Greg Dempster, AHDS
  • John Gallacher, Unison
  • Fiona Robertson, SQA

Items and actions

Introduction

Cabinet Secretary welcomed everyone to the meeting. With Cllr McCabe's agreement, she suggested that the group take items in a different order to the agenda given some of the commonality of themes. As such, the data update would be followed by the update from the Advisory Sub-Group.

Cllr McCabe thanked everyone for attending and confirmed how useful and important it was to have direct input from the subgroup experts at CERG to inform the discussions. 

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes were approved. 

Standing items

Data monitoring (item 3a) 

A short summary was provided on the wider context and trends of Covid-related data from across Scotland. The number of daily deaths remained low. The number of hospital admissions has risen, however, and the majority of this increase were people who were either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. The most severe cases tended to be in very elderly people (over 80s), and this was connected with the underlying level of frailty that would be associated with this age group. Overall, the data was indicating that the vaccine efficacy was holding up well.

Looking specifically at children and young people, the trends were showing that there was a substantial decrease in the rates of cases in the 18-19 age group, and the levels in the 16-17 year old age group were also beginning to decline. The cases in the 13-14 age group were levelling off, however the trend in the younger age groups were still rising. It was noted that the increase of cases amongst children had been rising before the schools went back, which suggested that although school transmission is a part of the picture, wider society transmission remained the main driver. 

It was acknowledged that there are still challenges ahead, but that the levelling off in numbers was encouraging. Further studies and analysis was taking place and Public Health Scotland would continue to review the data. The Scottish Government continues to model projected scenarios and these are published weekly. At the moment current trends were not following the 'worst case' scenarios. The challenges of incorporating the impact of specific events (e.g. COP26) into such modelling was noted. It was suggested that it might be helpful to have elements of the modelling data included in future presentations. 

Update from the advisory sub-groupÔÇ»and member feedback 

Item 4a

The recent meeting looked at three main issues: i) the recent data and evidence, ii) review of the experience of schools following the start of term, and iii) a review of the mitigations required in schools. 

The Advisory Sub-Group meeting had recommended that the level of cases was too high at the moment to consider any easing of mitigations at this point of time. The group would review the evidence again at their next meeting. The group also concluded that the updated self-isolation approach remained appropriate and proportionate, but recognised there may be scope to provide some refinement. In particular, it recommended that there should be a more targeted approach for the Warn and Inform letters to ensure that they were treated with suitable importance while also reducing anxiety. It also recommended a strengthening of the recommendation to encourage pupils to take a Lateral Flow Test before returning to school.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the Sub-Group for their update and invited comments and observations. The recommendations were welcomed and supported by CERG members. It was noted that schools were feeling the pressure in terms of the number of staff being off at the moment and that it was challenging to deliver the timetable in some cases. Public Health Scotland was working on increasing accessibility and capacity for PCR tests in order to support staff with a speedier return to work in the case of negative test outcomes. CoSLA confirmed that they had devised training materials on the new risk assessments. However, it was agreed that more training for staff was important to build confidence in the new approach and to encourage good practice.

Vaccination update (item 4b)

The Cabinet Secretary welcomed Mr Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, to the meeting. The current uptake of vaccination in the 16-17 year old age group was at 60% and the JCVI will provide advice on second doses once more evidence becomes available. He noted the recent JCVI advice that there were marginal clinical benefits to universal vaccination of 12-15-year-olds. The Chief Medical Officers of the four nations had been asked to look at the wider society and educational impacts of vaccination to this group, and to advise governments accordingly.

It was noted that there was support for schools to help with the delivery of the vaccine programme. This included the use of mobile vaccination units to help in accessibility, but also to help in reaching groups of pupils and staff who had not presented for vaccination yet.

The Youth Parliament was carrying out consultations on vaccine passports and vaccines in general, with particular focus on seldom heard groups. Mr Yousaf welcomed this work and noted that his team had also been working with younger people to understand the issues that were concerning them. The Cabinet Secretary thanked Mr Yousaf for his time and for his update on the delivery of vaccinations to young people.

Any other business

There was no other business raised.

Next meeting

Next meeting 16 September 2021.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their contributions and closed the meeting. 

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