At a meeting (24 August) of the Council’s Recovery Board this week, Members heard an update on Highland’s return to education from our Head of Education.
Chair of the Recovery Board, Cllr Alasdair Christie, said: “I would like to highlight the fantastic job all our staff – our teachers, our non-teaching and our facilities staff, have done in getting our schools in Highland back and learning resumed with the safety measures in place. I want to thank all involved in carrying out this difficult and complex piece of work. 203 of our schools and 245 of our ELC settings were opened by 17 August which was a testimony to the preparatory work across all Council services for the safe return of our education settings.”
Head of Education, Nicky Grant, said: “To ensure our settings continue to be as safe as possible, all schools take account of their local circumstances and reflect this in detailed risk assessments. Additionally, local project boards continue to run on a weekly basis with a focus on individual school and community issues relating to transport, catering, facilities and property management and digital issues.
“The safety and wellbeing of all staff and pupils remains a priority. Covid-19 is still with us, although there is currently no evidence of widespread transmission in Highland. To help keep the risk of transmission in schools low, efforts have been made to keep children and young people within the same groups for the duration of the school day. For example, in primary schools, groups are based on classes and in secondary schools, groups are based on whole years groups or a S4-S6 cohort.”
The Council is continuing to work closely with Public Health in relation to all health matters. Currently, two schools in Highland have experienced a singular positive test result within their setting in the past week. A daily resilience meeting of officers monitors the national and local situation, considers guidance and undertakes any necessary actions to respond to outbreaks and mitigation and prevention activity, as well as ensuring effective internal and external communication.
Subsequent to updates in the guidance by the Scottish Government on face coverings in school settings, briefings, FAQs and information has been made available to support schools, non-teaching staff and parents. The guidance comes into effect for all schools on 31 August. Our webpage www.highland.gov.uk/backtoschool is continually being updated.
Chair of the Council’s Education Committee John Finlayson added: “There is a vast amount of work taking place in the background to ensure that our school settings are positive and safe environments in line with national guidance and public health advice for our local context. It is fantastic to see our young people getting back to school and gaining from the invaluable contact with their peers as well as the educational benefits. We will continue to be agile and responsive to any changes as they occur in the coming weeks and months.”
Face coverings in schools (from the Scottish Government)
In light of the latest scientific and public health advice, including World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, face coverings should now (unless exemptions apply) be worn:
- in secondary schools, by adults and all pupils moving around the school, such as in corridors and communal areas where physical distancing is difficult to maintain
- ·on dedicated school transport by all children aged five and over, bringing it into line with guidance for public transport
While staff and students can continue to wear face coverings if they wish to, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom as there is greater scope for physical distancing and face coverings can have an impact on learning and teaching. However it remains the case that where adults cannot keep 2m distance and are interacting face-to-face for a sustained period (about 15 minutes or more), face coverings should be worn.
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