Preparation continues for phased return of Highland pupils

Letters to parents, senior-phase pupils and supportive information to school staff will be issued this week to explain the phased return to schools for some pupils on 22 February, in line with today’s announcements and new guidance issued by the Scottish Government.

A large amount of work and progress has already been achieved to prepare our schools for the return of P1-P3 children and Senior Phase students who will return for essential practical activities for certification, and we will continue to provide in school remote provision for our key worker and most vulnerable learners. All preparations prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of our children, young people and staff.

The further guidance and clarification received today from the Scottish Government will be reviewed by Officers and will inform decisions for the return of pupils from applicable groups, as planned, on 22 February.

Chair of the Council’s Education Committee, Cllr John Finlayson, said: “In-school learning is a vitally important element of the mental and physical wellbeing of all our young people and I am delighted that the phased return can take place from next week as planned. In time, as testing continues and the vaccination rollout progresses, I hope that more of our young people are able to make a similar return to school in the coming weeks.”

Letters will also set out arrangements for the introduction of a COVID-19 asymptomatic testing programme, directed and led by Scottish Government advice, for those working in or attending Highland schools from next week.

Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing kits have begun to be delivered to schools in Highland and Head Teachers have attended briefing sessions outlining the initial arrangements for testing to support the phased return to school. 

The letters will be issued in the next day or two, containing the latest information and guidance to school staff, parents and pupils on the testing programme, along with support on how to carry out the tests. For those who choose to participate in the testing programme, LFD kits will be distributed by schools directly from Monday (22 February). 

Lateral Flow Device tests have been selected for the programme because they do not require laboratory processing and can provide a quick result in around 30 minutes.

The programme has been designed to complement and run in parallel with other protective measures to ensure that the risks for staff, children and young people attending Highland schools are minimised as far as possible.

In addition, the scheme will also help to identify Covid-positive asymptomatic individuals in school environments at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that they and their close contacts can self isolate immediately, therefore minimising the likelihood of them passing on the virus.

The letter to school staff, parents and senior-phase pupils detailing arrangements for the introduction of COVID-19 testing will be published on Highland Council’s website. 

16 Feb 2021