Back to school and learning - ‘carefully and gradually'
28th May 2020
The Highland Council is assessing the implications of the First Minister's announcements made on the 21st May about the first stage relaxation of lockdown, concerning teachers and other education staff returning to the workplace during June to prepare for the return to school and settings on 11th August.
Highland Council's Education Committee Chair, Cllr John Finlayson said: "The return to workplace and Highland schools for our Education staff will have to be undertaken carefully and gradually.
"I understand the desire for parents and pupils to know what plans and preparations will be put in place to enable the start of term on 11th August; and that is exactly what our Education staff will be working on in the coming weeks.
“While I understand parental and pupil anxieties, especially for those starting at school - at this stage and ahead of formal engagement with local head teachers, parent forums and communities it is too early for the Council to provide any finalised plans or proposals on what the return to school will look like for Highland families. It is important that the local circumstances of each school will need to be considered along with consultations with key stakeholders. As soon as that information is available schools and the Council will promote this widely."
Paul Senior, Executive Chief Officer Education & Learning added: “There is a huge amount of preparation underway to return schools and our education settings in line with government guidelines. Before teaching and education staff can return to school, there are a number of measures we will be deploying to ensure that the views of Highland's head teachers, parents, carers and communities inform our plans.
"These will include rigorous risk assessments that will need to be carried out, to ensure that safe distance working practices and other risk prevention measures can be adhered, to that will enable staff to return to the workplace safely in environments that are as safe as possible to minimise the potential for risk.
"Then, as soon as jointly agreed, risk assessed back-to-school plans are in place, the Council along with our schools and settings will provide information to parents, carers and pupils on what the new normal will be like."
Pupils and parents should keep an eye on the news page of the Council’s website at: www.highland.gov.uk/news/archive; and the Council’s Twitter https://twitter.com/HighlandCouncil or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/highlandcouncil/ for updates on back-to-school information.
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.
Lesley, who previously worked for Hackney Local Authority in London, expressed how much she has enjoyed working for the Council. Lelsey started with highland council on 13 August 2019.
Following Scottish Government guidance on returning to construction sites across Scotland, works will be restarting on the EES:ABS scheme across the Highlands. In line with the guidance, contractors will be undertaking phased restarts and adhering to social distancing to allow workers to return to construction sites gradually while using measures such as hand hygiene.