Routine protective measures in schools, early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and daycare of children's services: impact assessments

Impact assessments of revised schools guidance and guidance for the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) sector which seek to ensure routine protective measures are a proportionate and appropriate response to competing harms.

8. Mitigations

Scotland's updated Strategic Framework notes that current evidence provides confidence that the booster vaccination programme has greatly strengthened population immunity against severe illness. Additionally it also notes the number of mitigating actions following the relaxation of some protective measures in March 2022, which includes

  • an annual booster programme,
  • the consideration of a Scottish Vaccination and Immunisation Programme (SVIP),
  • continued public health surveillance programmes,
  • implementing of the commitments to improve care and support for people with long COVID, and
  • publications in Spring 2022 of a Test & Protect transition plan and a new COVID-19 Outbreak Management Plan.

The routine protective measures that remain in place in schools and ELC settings are set out in the summary section of this document.

Schools and ELC settings are considered to be low risk settings for outbreaks due to the relatively lower vulnerability of children to harm arising from COVID infection, and the high vaccination coverage of the working age adult population.

8.1 Guidance and sharing good practice

From the outset of the pandemic, we have been clear that local authorities and schools should continue to prioritise personalised support to meet the individual, physical and emotional needs of all children and young people.

Education Scotland put in place a wide range of support for families, including specific resources to support families of children with complex additional support needs. This support is set within a model of inclusive learning policy and practice, which is kept under constant review with robust tracking and monitoring of learning and wellbeing. Education Scotland have maintained high levels of engagement with all local authorities throughout the pandemic to provide support and to gather intelligence on the impact on learners e.g. where schools have been closed/partially closed.

This offered an opportunity to share good practice and encourage collegiate working. HM Inspectors of Education have also carried out a series of thematic reviews and published these reports to share learning and support improvement.

As we move out of the pandemic Education Scotland are building on this approach in the context of pupil progress. This will lead to particular arrangements for support at school and local authority level with the aim of improving performance. This includes a comprehensive package of health and wellbeing support. Additionally HM Inspectors will carry out a series of recovery visits from March 2022, engaging in professional dialogue to support continuity of learning, wellbeing of staff and learners and safeguarding.

8.2 Support for workforce to address children's needs

Our guidance is clear that schools and local authorities should prepare and maintain clear, strong contingency plans for providing educational continuity in the event of a local outbreak. Education Scotland and local authorities must ensure schools, learners and parents are aware of the National eLearning Offer (NELO) to support the curriculum including live, recorded and supported resources for both the BGE and Senior Phase. The National eLearning Offer continues to expand support young people learning in school or from home.

Pupils miss out on time to interact and socialise with their peers. We know from the LockdownLowdown survey, commissioned by Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Link and Young Scot, that school closures earlier in the pandemic had an overall negative impact on the mental wellbeing of pupils, and further time in isolation could compound this. The Routine Protective Measures aim to minimise in-person learning disruption while protecting the health and safety of the school population at large.

8.3 Support for workforce wellbeing and practice

It is widely recognised that the pandemic has impacted the mental wellbeing of the education workforce. It should be acknowledged that some members of staff may be cautious about the removal of some mitigations. Employers should communicate any changes to mitigating measures clearly with staff. Local authorities should ensure that managers in school have sensitive, supportive conversations with staff who have concerns about their mental health with wellbeing. Managers and employees may wish to access the package of additional workforce support designed to aid school staff as they manage COVID-19 in establishments.

Resources have been developed for the early years workforce to support staff wellbeing. A Team ELC Wellbeing Hub has been made available and contains a wealth of practical hits and advice to help staff manage their wellbeing, connect with each other and engage in shared learning. Resources have also been developed on mental health, wellbeing and professional learning to support schools and childcare practitioners.

8.4 Support for parents

All parents and carers may have concerns about their child being in school, due to the risk of bringing the virus into the home. In these circumstances, schools and local authorities should engage with those parents and carers to provide reassurance on any concerns, overcome any barriers to learning, and support attendance.

In line with requirements under the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006, local authorities and settings should make arrangements to involve and communicate with all parents and carers (the "parent forum" for the school) as well as the Parent Council.

The routine protective measures will remain of key importance, including hygiene and cleanliness. There is a wealth of information to support parents through Education Scotland's Parent zone Scotland website and on the Parent Club website.

8.5 Funding for free school meals

Additionally, the provision of Scottish Government funding to local authorities for free school meals protects the health and wellbeing of children and young people and reduces the impact of poverty on thousands of families across the country. Latest Scottish Government Data on eligibility for free school meals suggests that around 358,000 children and young people are currently in receipt of a free school meal.



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