Covid-19 Briefing for Pupils, Parents, and Carers


Remember FACTS!

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowds
  • Clean Hands
  • Two Metres
  • Self Isolate

Phased Return to ELCs and Schools

Following the announcement by the First Minister on Tuesday, it has been confirmed that early learning centres and schools will begin a phased return. The main focus of this briefing is to provide information to pupils, parents and carers about what this means for schools in the Western Isles.

When will the phased return begin?

The phased return to ELCs and schools will begin on Monday 22nd February. Only the pupils in the groups identified below and confirmed by your ELC or school are permitted to attend during this first phase.

Which learners will return?

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the following groups of learners will be permitted to return from 22nd February,

  • All children in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings.
  • All children in Primary 1-3
  • Pre-identified children with significant additional support needs
  • Notified pupils in S4-6 requiring to complete practical coursework for national qualifications. (No more than 5-8% of school roll at any one time)

Specific information about the return of children in each sector is provided further on in this briefing.

Are there any exceptions?

The Scottish Government has recognised that there will be a very small number of exceptional circumstances where schools will need to consider a return of some pupils in addition to those identified above. There are strict rules around these exceptions and they require the approval of the Comhairle to be implemented.

The vast majority of our schools will only be admitting children in nursery and P1-3 and the very limited exceptions to this that have been agreed based on the particular circumstances of that school and the 'last resort' arrangements that are permitted by the Government. Any schools operating an agreed exception will communicate directly with their parent group.

What about the next phase of return?

The First Minister confirmed on Tuesday that the earliest possible date for the next phase of return to school will be 15th March 2021. A further announcement is expected on 2nd March 2021 about whether that phase will go ahead and which pupils it may involve. There are currently no further details about which year groups will be included in that next phase.

Will key worker children and vulnerable pupils be able to continue to attend?

Yes. The rules around access to school for the children of key workers or identified vulnerable pupils in P4-S6 has not changed. Key worker registration is closed.

Registered key workers must only use the provision when there is absolutely no other childcare option available and strictly only when physically attending at work. Where there are two parents/carers involved in the care of the child, BOTH must be required to attend at work as key workers.

We continue to operate under tier four restrictions and schools still have a requirement to keep overall attendance of pupils and staff to an absolute minimum.

Will school transport and school meals be available from Monday?

Yes. School transport services involving P1-3 pupils will operate from Monday as they normally would and any P1-3 children entitled to travel by school transport will be able to do so. This includes any specialist or ASN transport. Face coverings must continue to be worn on school transport

For pupils in S4-6 that have been informed about returning to school, a bus service will be available where the school has requested it to be in place. There may not be a full service operating in all areas, depending on numbers provided by schools. NOTE: As well as wearing a face covering, senior pupils must also adhere to 2m physical distancing on school transport from Monday.

School meal provision will be available, as it usually would, for all pupils attending at school from Monday. 

Will it be safe for learners to return?

ELC settings and schools will continue to make sure that all measures are being taken to make schools as safe as possible. Risk assessments have been updated to take account of the latest Government and Public Health advice. This includes:

  • strict hygiene and cleaning routines;
  • frequent hand-washing or sanitisation;
  • face coverings for staff and secondary pupils;
  • 2m physical distancing for staff and senior pupils;
  • increased ventilation and air circulation;
  • maintenance of consistent pupil bubbles (groups), where possible;
  • restrictions on higher risk curricular activities;
  • zero tolerance of Covid-19 symptoms
  • strict restrictions on visitors to school buildings;
  • access to frequent home testing for staff and senior pupils.

If you would like to find out more information about what your school is doing to keep pupils and staff safe, please contact the school office.

Is it a requirement for P1-3 to attend school?

Yes. For pupils in P1-3, Monday 22nd February represent a return to conventional school attendance and school offices will commence the monitoring of pupil attendance in the normal way.

Any absences from P1-3 must be notified to the school office in the normal way with a reason provided for the absence.

Where an absence is linked to a confirmed Covid-19 case or a requirement by public health to self-isolate, school will record this accordingly and home-learning materials may be provided.

Any absences relating to a choice not to attend will be recorded as an unauthorised absence and no school work will be provided. 

Arrangements for ELC Settings

Following Government advice, all children can return to their normal nursery provision from 22nd February. Parents should be reassured that nurseries will continue to operate in a safe manner, basing their protocols on current Public Health guidance.  Although no new safety measures need to be put into place for this return to nurseries, all settings will be reviewing their risk assessments and reinforcing the ongoing importance of the current protocols, emphasising the continued need for physical distancing between adults, the wearing of face coverings and zero tolerance of possible Covid symptoms. 

Parents should continue to access only one setting for their childcare needs, where possible.  Nursery staff are also be included in the Testing Programme and test kits will be available to these staff over the coming days and weeks.

If you have any query or concern about your child's return to nursery please contact your nursery directly.

Arrangements for P1-3 Pupils

Each school will be providing parents and families with information about the specific attendance arrangement for P1-3 in their school.

As schools will continue to be responsible for the delivery of home learning for P4-7 pupils, there may be a need to make some staffing changes to the teachers working with P1-3 or the teachers providing content and support for home learning.

For the initial period of return of P1-3, schools will be focusing on supporting core learning and assessing the needs of individual learners after this period of disruption to routine learning.

Arrangements for S4-6 Limited Return

Secondary schools have been working throughout this week to prepare timetables, arrange staffing and plan course content for the limited return of S4-6.

Schools will be limited to a maximum of 5-8% of roll attending to complete practical coursework. Please ensure that pupils only attend on the days and times that the school has notified.

Due to the requirements to maintain 2m physical distancing, the grouping of classes and sets may vary and be delivered by different teachers within that subject.

Due to the significant disruption that senior pupils have already experienced, it is important that this opportunity to complete practical course work is fully maximised. Please ensure that pupils do attend on the notified days and make the most of the time made available to them.

Pupils in S1-6 that continue to learn at home may experience changes in their regular online timetables and provisions as schools reconfigure staff to work with the S4-6 pupils attending. This will be kept to a minimum but there may be alterations to staffing, times or content in the coming weeks.

Access to Testing for Senior Pupils

All senior pupils (S4-6) will have voluntary access to home testing for Covid-19 using self-administered Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.

The programme is entirely voluntary and pupils not wishing to participate will not face any detriment or restrictions.

In the interests of taking every measure to keep schools safe, both the Comhairle and the Scottish Government strongly encourage participation in the testing programme.

On the first day of school attendance, pupils will be provided with information about the programme and how to subscribe and provide consent to participate.  Tests are administered at home, up to two times per week, when attending. 

e-Sgoil: Lockdown Live & Gàidhlig Bheò

Throughout this time, e-Sgoil continues to provide a range of interesting and innovative content to support home learning for all ages. This may form part of the formal home learning work being issued by your school or many of the activities can be directly accessed by learners via the e-sgoil  website.

Lockdown Live

The e-Sgoil Lockdown Live  programme forms part of the national e-learning offer and is available to everyone directly via their website. It includes a broad variety of activities, live lessons and content for all ages of learners.

Gàidhlig Bheò

As an element of Lockdown Live, e-Sgoil is offering the Gàidhlig Bheò (»)  programme for pupils in Gaelic Medium Education. This offer is intended to provide support for oral Gaelic language via live, interactive timetabled lessons.

Participation in Gàidhlig Bheò requires registration by your child's school. If you have a child in Gaelic Medium education and haven't heard about Gàidhlig Bheò, please contact your school office to request registration. 

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