Covid-19 Briefing for Pupils, Parents and Carers

Information Correct at Date of Publication

Last Published on: Wednesday, 19 May, 2021 08:50 AM

Keeping Schools Safe

It remains the utmost priority of the Comhairle to deliver quality educational provision in schools and early learning centres that are as safe as possible at all times.

The risk assessments and measures that our schools have in place are consistently based on the latest advice from Scottish Government, which is, in turn, developed from the very latest scientific and research advice about protecting our children, staff and wider communities.

We provide updates below in relation to these measures and how they may affect you.  

Changes to Local Protection Levels

From Monday 17th May 2021, the Western Isles authority area moved into local protection level one (Tier One). This has brought changes and relaxations in the restrictions we all face as a community and will also change a number of the measures in place in schools.

We continue to ask for the support and patience of pupils, parents and families as we make these changes and retain a number of measures that affect your engagement with schools and learning.

Updated Guidance for Schools

Following confirmation that protection levels were going to be reduced across most areas of Scotland, the Government made some significant updates to aspects of the guidance for schools. They include:

  • Relaxation of measures to allow transition activities to P1 and S1.
  • Changes to restrictions on the delivery of PE, Music and Drama.
  • Clarification about how shielding advice affects pupils.
  • Additional information about school trips and excursions.

More information is provided about these changes in subsequent sections of this briefing.

What Hasn’t Changed?

When informing pupils and parents about the above changes, we must also reinforce the key areas where guidance has not changed.

The following measures will continue to be in place for the foreseeable future, most likely for the remainder of this term.

  • Strict hand hygiene – frequent hand-washing and sanitisation.
  • Use of face coverings by all staff and by pupils in secondary schools.
  • Physical distancing between staff, wherever possible
  • Increased ventilation – open windows and doors in all rooms
  • Enhanced daily cleaning, including high-contact surfaces
  • Maintenance of pupil bubbles and minimisation of pupil movements and mixing.
  • Restriction on all but essential visitors to schools, including continued restrictions on visits by parents and families.
  • Promotion of increased outdoor learning and reduced time in classrooms.
  • Access to LFD testing for staff and secondary pupils.

Supporting Transition to P1 and S1

From 17th May 2021, the updated guidance for schools makes important allowances to support the undertaking of some transition activities for those children due to start P1 and S1 in August 2021.

There will continue to be some virtual and digital activities to support transition, especially in the provision of information for parents, but this will be able to be supplemented by physical visits to new schools in a Covid-safe manner. The arrangements for this will be different from school to school depending on the number of children involved and the resources and space they have available.

Nurseries and schools will be planning transition activities based on the updated guidance and will be providing information to you about that they propose for your child.

Where a child has identified additional support needs (ASN) and an enhanced transition is needed, additional measures will be able to be put in place to support this.

For children transitioning to P1, nursery staff will be able to accompany children to the building for visits, but parents will not be permitted to attend the receiving school.

We appreciate that transition can be a very challenging time for both children and parents at P1 and S1 and we are committed to supporting all children to have a positive transition to their next stage in learning whilst keeping within the requirements of Covid-19 guidance. If you are concerned about any aspect of transition, please talk to your nursery play leader or school headteacher and they will provide support and advice.

Changes to PE, Music and Drama

Changes are being made to the guidance for Physical Education, Music and Drama from 17th May 2021 that brings these areas in schools into line with the guidance in place for the wider community.

The guidance is set out to reflect what is allowed in each of the tiers of the local protection levels. The information below relates to Tier One for the Western Isles

Physical Education and Dance

All forms of contact and non-contact PE and Dance are now permitted in all settings as long as there is very good ventilation and hygiene in place.

Music (including Instrumental Instruction)

All low risk activities such as percussion, keyboard, strings and guitar are permitted indoors and outdoors with good ventilation and hygiene controls in place.

High risk activities (singing, brass and wind instruments) can take place outdoors and, indoors in certain circumstances with additional risk assessment, ventilation and other controls agreed and implemented.

Music and instrumental instruction may not commence again immediately in all cases as it will be subject to specific risk assessments being put in place in different locations.

Drama

Drama activities are now permitted outdoors and indoors. Audience performances are not yet permitted.

Shielding Advice for Pupils

For areas in protection levels 0, 1 and 2, children and young people on the shielding list are advised to follow the guidance for the general population (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) in relation to making decision o attend school or childcare settings.

LFD Home Testing for Pupils

Access to LFD home testing continues to be fully available for all pupils in secondary schools. This is a voluntary programme and there is no requirement for pupils to participate but we strongly encourage those who are eligible to join the scheme.

The transition to a time with less restrictions across the country will increase travel, movement and contact between groups of people and participating in LFD testing helps to identify possible spread of the virus and allows rapid response to any issues.

If pupils have not yet enrolled in the programme and wish to, they should contact the school office for more information.

We ask that any pupils that do participate in the testing  make sure that they only use test kits that are allocated to them by the school and then ensure that all results are properly logged as per the instructions in the test booklet.

LFD testing also continues to be voluntarily available to all staff working in nursery, primary and secondary schools and centres.

SQA Alternative Certification Model

Secondary schools have been working throughout this term in challenging circumstances to gather assessment evidence and meet the requirements of the SQA for the award of qualifications this year.

The alternative model that was developed nationally requires schools to be able to have a range of evidence to support teacher judgements about provisional awards and this has required all our schools to plan and undertake a number of assessments with pupils during May and June that are fair, consistent and reliable. We appreciate that this system has placed a pressure on pupils but they are required this year, particularly in the absence of other evidence, such as prelims, following the lockdown in term three.

Any pupils requiring help and support with the current assessment process should contact their school in the first instance and advice can be provided by Guidance and school management.

A separate communication for parents and pupils of S4-6 undertaking SQA qualifications is being prepared and will be issued in the coming days.

More information about the alternative certification model (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) being used by SQA for 2021 can be found on the SQA website. 

School Trips and Excursions

The updated guidance now permits schools to undertake day trips and excursions to areas beyond the immediate locality of the school and can now consider overnight and outdoor centre residential visits from 31st May 2021 subject to very strict Covid-19 controls and risk assessments being in place. If schools intend to undertake any such activities, they will liaise closely with you in doing so.

The Comhairle will not be supporting any trips or travel out-with the authority area this term. 

Traditional Term Four Activities

With significant Covid-19 restrictions continuing to be in place for at least the remainder of this term, schools will not be able to hold events like sports days, special assemblies, prize-giving events and leavers ceremonies in the way that they normally would.

Depending on the size of the building, access to outdoor spaces and number of pupils in some schools, they may be able to hold a version of these events in a Covid-safe way but this will be subject to additional risk assessment and the capacity of each school to do that.   Where such events are possible, schools will inform parents directly about what they plan to do. This may include outdoor, digital and virtual events.

Due to the very different nature and size of schools across the Western isles, we ask that parents do not compare activities that happen at different schools because it may be the case that an event can happen in a safe way in one location but not in another.

National guidance also continues to dictate that parents and families or any other non-essential visitors are not permitted to enter school buildings for any reason.