Covid-19 Briefing for Pupils, Parents and Carers

Schools and ElC's Return - Thursday 12 August 2021

We are pleased to offer a warm welcome back our pupils for the start of the new academic session on Thursday 12th August 2021. Particular mention also goes to children and young people starting in new schools and early learning centres for the first time, be that in nursery, P1, S1 or other year groups.

Since schools and term-time nurseries closed on 25th June 2021, there have been a number of changes and updates to Covid-19 guidance for schools and nurseries locally and nationally and this briefing is intended to provide pupils, parents and carers with the latest information prior to returning to school.  As long as Covid-19 measures impact on the operation of schools and nurseries, we will continue to provide regular briefings to keep people informed.

‘Get Into Summer’ Programme

With the support of Government ‘Get into Summer’ funding provided as part of Covid-19 recovery, we were able to offer and extend summer club and Motiv8 activities throughout the holiday for pupils eligible to access this provision.

We hope that all the children and young people who participated in these activities enjoyed them, and we’d like to thank parents and carers for supporting attendance and thank all the staff, volunteers and partner services that delivered the ‘Get into Summer’ programme.

Updated National Guidance for Schools

As part of the nation’s move beyond level zero on 9th August 2021, the government has issued an updated guidance document for the safe operation of schools. Whilst the new guidance does reduce or remove some of the measures in place last term, many will be kept in schools for at least the first six weeks of term, as a precaution. Further guidance updates are expected after this initial six-week period.  

All schools and nurseries will continue to require:

  • Fully updated risk assessments
  • High level of checking for symptoms
  • Access to twice weekly LFD testing (S1-6 + Staff)
  • Enhanced hygiene and environmental cleaning
  • Frequent handwashing and sanitisation
  • High levels of room ventilation
  • Physical distancing (Staff)
  • Use of face coverings and PPE, where required
  • Participation in Test & Protect

Updated Covid-19 Arrangements for Schools

In addition to the core measures above, we have provided a summary table of information about which measures are staying in place and which are changing. This list will be updated as any further changes are made.

Restrictions on Visiting Schools

One of the measures that most significantly affect parents and carers is the restriction on visiting school buildings. For at least the first six weeks of term, this will continue to be the case for parents, carers and all other routine visitors to schools. Only visitors essential to maintain services will be permitted to enter school buildings.  

In very restricted circumstances, a parent/carer may enter a school, by prior agreement with the headteacher, where the visit relates to a significant matter of child wellbeing.

Parents are permitted to access school grounds but must always wear a face covering when doing so. Please check with your school about local arrangements for drop-off and pick-up of children.

LFD Home Testing for Pupils

The programme of voluntary LFD Testing for secondary children will continue to be in place for this term. Participating pupils are asked to test before returning to school, with a test having been taken either the night before return or on the first morning of attendance. If a positive test is received, you must not attend school. Self-isolate and seek a PCR test from NHS Western Isles by calling 01851 601151 or e-mailing wi.covid19queries@nhs.scot

We ask that all participating pupils make sure that their test results are recorded each time on the online portal (Opens in a new window or downloads a file), whatever the result received. It is important that this part of the process is completed.  

Participation in the LFD testing programme for pupils remains voluntary but we strongly encourage and support young people taking part.  If you haven’t already enrolled, please contact school offices and they will assist. Additional test kits are also available from school offices, as required.

Pupils starting in S1 or are new to the school should also test now if they have kits available at home already. If not, we encourage you to join the scheme as soon as you start school this week and take a test at the earliest opportunity.

Once term commences, LFD Testing should continue twice weekly unless instructed to stop testing.

Contact Tracing and ‘Warn & Inform’

One of the key measures removed in the new schools’ guidance is the requirement for strict groupings (bubbles) to be in place. They have been removed as it will no longer be a requirement for whole classes/groups to self-isolate if there is a confirmed positive case.

If a positive case is identified in a school, only identified close contacts will be required to isolate and any specific advice or instructions from NHS Western Isles will be followed at the time.

For other pupils not identified as close contacts, a ‘Warn and Inform’ letter will be issued to tell you about the case and advise about what precautionary actions, if any, you should take.

It is important for the continued safe operation of schools that all pupils and their families fully comply with the instructions and advice of NHS staff about testing and self-isolation. 

Vaccination for 16-17 Year Olds

(Information provided by NHS Western Isles)

Young people aged 16 and 17 who are now eligible for a first dose of the COVID vaccine will be contacted directly by NHS Western Isles to invite them to attend a vaccination appointment. We ask that individuals do not register on the national portal: it is not used in the Western Isles.  

Vaccinating people as quickly as possible will help drive infection rates down, particularly as a significantly more infectious and faster spreading strain has developed.

The coronavirus vaccine can reduce your risk of developing coronavirus and make your symptoms milder if you do get it. The vaccine is not mandatory, but NHS Scotland strongly recommends you get the vaccine when offered it.

The vaccine offered to 16 and 17 year olds in the Western Isles will be a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Pending further evidence on effectiveness and safety in this age group, a second dose is anticipated to be offered later to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection. 

The programme has always carefully assessed all the benefits and potential risks and offered vaccine to groups where this benefit is clear. The research and evidence shows that is the case for this age group, and they will now be called forward for an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

We await the outcome of analysis of data on second doses for this age group and any additional future advice on vaccination for those in the 12-15 age group.

SQA Awards

After a very challenging year that saw Covid-19 continue to significantly disrupt education and cancel exams, our senior pupils received their SQA results yesterday. At this time, we would like to thank pupils, parents, carers and wider families for your resilience and commitment to the qualifications as the system shifted and changed nationally to respond to the crisis.

We do sincerely hope that the academic year just getting under way does not see the disruption of last year and we will share with pupils, parents and carers, any information about arrangements for National Qualifications in 2022 as we get it.

If any pupils remain concerned about the results received yesterday, your school will be able to provide support and guidance in the first instance. You can also call the My World of Work national helpline on 0808 100 8000 or visit My World of Work (Opens in a new window or downloads a file).

Seeking More Information?

We have aimed to provide the fullest update on Covid-19 matters affecting education within this briefing but there may be other areas, particularly in relation to the arrangements at specific schools, that you wish to find out more about. In the first instance, you should contact your local school office who will be best placed to respond to queries and questions.