Highland Council sets out careful and gradual approach on school's return to Education and Learning
18th June 2020
Today, The Highland Council's approach to a phased reopening of schools and Education Learning and Care (ELC) settings in the Highland region was discussed by Members at the Recovery Board.
Guided by the national framework, Highland Council will look at the local and individual circumstances of each of it's 203 school and ELC settings to provide the safest and most valuable learning experience possible to its 50,000 children and young people when term resumes in August.
Newly appointed Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, has commissioned a programme management office (PMO) to ensure the effective delivery of this programme of work. The PMO, comprised of 11 sub-groups, consists of a range of local area partners, stakeholders and providers, meeting weekly to develop operational plans, risks assessments and develop a shared approach to progressing matters. These 11 Sub Groups cover the following areas:
North Area Project
West Area Project
Mid Area Project
South Area Project
Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, said: "Wellbeing and safety is a top priority for all our children, staff and communities. There are 203 schools in the Highlands, all with different sizes and configurations in response to the needs of their respective communities. We will continue to work with our key partners, stakeholders and providers to ensure our educational settings are safe but also positioned to provide the best possible Learning and Teaching experiences for our children and young people, taking account of the restrictions presented by the Covid-19 crisis".
Chair of the Education Committee, Cllr John Finlayson, added: "The Recovery Board has discussed the many areas needed for deliberation to safely get our young people back to school. Future plans and risk assessments will take account of children’s educational outcomes, equal opportunities, social and emotional needs and their rights.
Communication with parents is key and plans at individual school level will, of course, be informed by national guidance, authority guidance and very importantly local circumstances. We all want to get our young people back in the school setting as soon as possible, but this needs to be done as safely as possible".
Chair of the Recovery Board and Depute Leader Alasdair Christie said: “The Recovery Board welcomed the proposals put forward today for the return of Education in Highland. We will all be working together with parents and communities to ensure that the arrangements are as smooth as possible and in line with government guidelines.”
Following the freezing of some charges and suspension of enforcement for others during the lockdown period, The Highland Council has been following a phased return to normal operations since the 26th of June. Further details are given below.
Many Highland Council tenants may be missing out on help towards their rent from Universal Credit because they have not notified the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their annual rent increase which came into effect on the 30th March 2020. Those tenants who have not yet reported their rent increase could be facing a shortfall in the help they receive towards their rent, putting them at risk of rent arrears.
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.