Highland Council prepares for phased return to new normal

Highland Council’s Recovery Board Chair, Cllr Alasdair Christie has welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s road map phasing the way out of lockdown, which was published earlier today.

The First Minister revealed that Phase 1 of the Government’s new four phase plan, could come into effect on 28 May, however the advice remains stay home, protect the NHS and save lives for now.

Cllr Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Highland Council’s Recovery Board, said: “Highland Council is assessing and planning for all the implications of the First Minister’s announcements made today about the first stage relaxation of lockdown, including her statement on teachers and other staff returning during June to prepare for the return to school in August.

“The Recovery Board has already begun developing our own Highland Council route map which is focusing on how we prepare for a safe return to work, return to school and restarting key services, such as reopening recycling centres at the start of June.

“Today’s announcement will I am sure be welcomed by communities here in Highland, who have been adhering to the lockdown measures and ensuring they help protect the NHS and save lives.

“However, we are also acutely aware of the impact the lockdown has had on our economy and on every aspect of people’s lives and mental health.

“We are working hard to map out the best way forward for Highland, so that we can start to get people back to work and school, but to ensure this is done safely and in line with science and the Scottish Government’s guidance.”

He added: “Since the outbreak we have learned a lot of lessons and we’ve seen a tremendous demonstration of agility, innovation and hard work from staff across the organisation. I am delighted to say that as a result of everyone’s hard work and commitment we are now in a position to pave the way forward and start getting back to what will be a new normal for all of us.”

Schools will return on 11 August, one week earlier than planned for most pupils, while Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will open over the summer.

An agreement reached between councils, professional associations and parent representatives means:

  • schools will implement physical distancing measures, such as providing seating that is two metres apart and staggering arrival, departure and break times
  • increased hand-washing or use of hand sanitisers, enhanced cleaning, robust protocols and ongoing risk assessments
  • class sizes will be significantly reduced as a result of the new way of working, with most pupils spending around half their time in class and half learning at home. Time in school will increase further as soon as it is safe to do so
  • teachers and other education staff will return in June - subject to appropriate safety assessments being completed - to prepare and plan for the new way of working and welcoming pupils back
  • existing ‘hubs’ will continue to run to provide vulnerable children and those of key workers with childcare over the summer
  • the school estate will be expanded where necessary and possible to increase the time children can spend with their teachers
  • innovative use will be made of existing teachers and staff

The Scottish Government road map can be found here

21 May 2020
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