Highland Council plans for return to education and learning

Today (Thursday 2 July) members of The Highland Council’s Education Committee considered the plans in place to reopen Highland schools in August.

Councillor John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee said: “I would like to thank all our staff for their hard work on developing plans, including contingencies, so we can accommodate the maximum number of young people safely in our schools. This is an immense and complex task as the national guidance and the health situation continues to evolve. I understand that parents, staff and young people may be feeling anxious as well as looking forward to getting back to school in August. I wish to provide assurances to you at this time that we will only progress with a 100% return if it is safe to do so and all our plans will be in line with national guidance.”

On Tuesday (23 June), the Deputy First Minister announced in Scottish Parliament that the Scottish Government is now aiming for the full return of children and young people to schools in August, subject to ongoing COVID-19 scientific and health advice.

Following this announcement, Council services and schools have been working towards a new Plan A - C scenario-based criterion, with Plan C having recently been undertaken by all local schools as part of the working to the previous 50% return.

The new plans are:

  • Plan A – 100% return with no social distancing measures – key focus for 12th August.
  • Plan B – 100% return with 1m social distancing using a range of local buildings and additional staffing – should ‘r’ factor increase; possible second wave.
  • Plan C – 2m social distancing with blended learning attaining 50% in school learning; using a range of local buildings and additional staffing; possible lockdown.

The Council is aiming for a 100% return of pupils as long as social distancing measures permit (Plan A) on 12 August. This can only be achieved in schools if the key conditions set by Government guidance are met. Plans B and C will remain as a contingency to be implemented should the scientific and health advice indicate that it would not be safe to proceed with a full return.

Further planning options to support the safe and secure reopening of schools and ELC settings will be developed should national guidance change during the period from 2 July to 6 August.

Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, said: “We are working towards a full return to education in August, but our priority must be the safety and wellbeing of our pupils and staff. Individual school circumstances are being assessed at a local level and will remain mindful of national guidance. It is important our decisions in local planning are informed by local conversations as we continue our engagement with communities across Highland. We also understand the importance of communication and we are working hard to share up to date information with everyone concerned”.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for parents and children have been published on our website at www.highland.gov.uk/backtoschool and this site will be continually updated as new information is available.

2 Jul 2020