Publication - Strategy/plan

Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework for reopening schools, early learning and childcare provision

This strategic framework "Excellence and Equity During the COVID-19 Pandemic" has been jointly developed by the Scottish Government and local government, with crucial support from key partners across the education system including the Education Recovery Group, established in April 2020.

23 page PDF

709.8 kB

23 page PDF

709.8 kB

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework for reopening schools, early learning and childcare provision
Summary

23 page PDF

709.8 kB

Summary

The framework has been jointly developed by the Scottish Government and Local Government, with support from key partners across the education system, and is an agreed strategic framework to be used at local level in conjunction with Local Phasing Delivery Plans for the reopening of schools and early learning and childcare (ELC) provision in Scotland.

The implementation of this approach is conditional on two factors: i) scientific and medical advice that it is safe to proceed, ii) implementation of complementary public health measures, (including but not limited to test, trace, isolate and support practices as well as guidance on, and supply of, any appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff).

The school and ELC closures since March are considered to be having a negative effect on all aspects of children's progress and development including their wellbeing.

To respond to this, we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date on which it is safe to do so. This can only be undertaken with careful planning and clear communication to pupils, parents, carers and staff to build confidence and assurance that the health and scientific advice justifies such a position.

The majority view of the Chief Medical Officer's Advisory Group is that it would be appropriate to consider actions to support distancing guidance in schools and situations where children are in indoor environments for extended periods of time. As a consequence, almost all children and young people will experience a blend of in-school and in-home learning from the start of the school year in August 2020.

A blended model of in-school and in-home learning is reliant on consistent, easy to use in-home learning materials which are intended to support and complement, but not replicate, in-school learning. This includes consideration of the specific needs of children and young people with additional support needs and other families most in need of support. Education Scotland will ensure learning materials are available on a national basis both to support in-home learning and to augment and support schools' own arrangements for children and young people.

While recognising that in-home learning takes many forms (including support from families) and is by no means all IT based, an approach to digital learning should be implemented to mitigate negative impacts on equity. This will specifically focus on providing digital access for pupils who do not have this at present.

Local authorities should look to maximise their capacity for pupils to benefit from in-school learning through innovative approaches. This should include looking to temporarily expand the size and configuration of the learning estate where necessary and ensuring that existing workforce capacity is fully utilised to respond to local challenges. Options to supplement the existing workforce are under active consideration by local authorities and the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

The overall main message is that we aim to restart school education for almost all children and young people in Scotland in August. Subject to public health guidance, teachers and other school staff should be returning to schools at some point during June, to plan and prepare for the new blended model of learning to be implemented from August. This new model, which will ensure adherence to safeguarding protocols such as appropriate physical distancing, will include part-time in-school learning and part-time in-home learning for almost all children. Health and safety guidance, including risk assessments, will be in place prior to staff returning to school in June.

The start date of the new term will be standardised to 11 August 2020 only for the purposes of managing Covid-19, which will mean an earlier than planned start for some schools. The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers will give advice to Local Negotiating Committees for Teachers on how to manage this locally and how to reach agreement on when lost holiday time should be taken back. A universal approach will bring benefits for children, including an earlier return to school for many, and the ability for all learners to engage with weekly in-home learning tasks.

Mindful of the impact of lockdown on many of our most vulnerable children, local authorities will work with partners to increase the numbers of children attending critical childcare provision including hubs. This will include both keyworker children and children whom teachers, ELC professionals and other partners, in consultation with the local authority, think would benefit most from early direct contact with education and care staff. There should be a particular focus on supporting children at key transition points (e.g. due to start P1 or S1) which may include some in-school experience in late June, so that they are fully supported to make the next steps in their education.

Critical childcare will need to continue throughout May, June and the summer break to ensure ongoing provision for key worker and vulnerable children.

Consistency in teaching and learning provision will be especially important for senior phase pupils who are preparing for qualifications in 2021. Preparations for the 2021 exam diet are underway. In the meantime, Scottish Qualifications Authority will provide further advice to schools to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to capture, on an ongoing basis, the learning outcomes met by young people in the Senior Phase in school year 2020/21. This will provide a strong evidence base to support assessment and certification.

The framework for reopening ELC services will be predicated upon age-appropriate public health measures such as hygiene practices, caring for children in small groups, minimising contact between those groups, and maximising use of outdoor spaces. This will allow the reopening of ELC and childcare capacity over the summer, in addition to maintaining critical childcare provision. The timetable for reopening services will take account of the lead-in time required to bring staff in the private and voluntary sectors off furlough.

Working in this way may reduce capacity in individual services. That capacity should be prioritised for key worker families requiring critical childcare, children eligible for funded ELC entitlement and children in need as defined in statute. Remaining capacity will be used to meet the childcare needs of other working families. There will be local discretion over how to allocate overall capacity in line with these principles and the local Getting It Right For Every Child practice model.

The reopening framework for ELC provision will safeguard the financial sustainability of ELC services across all sectors, recognising the particular fiscal challenges which organisations in the private and third sectors will face throughout the recovery period.

To ensure that delivery of the measures related to the framework is manageable and sustainable, an assessment should be made of any net additional costs that are expected to be incurred. The Scottish Government will work closely with Local Government to understand and address financing as work progresses.


Contact

Email: CERG@gov.scot