Following the announcement by Depute First Minister John Swinney on Tuesday 23 June, Aberdeenshire Council is now hoping to welcome all children and young people across the local area back to school from August 12.
Laurence Findlay, Director of Education and Children’s Services for Aberdeenshire Council, explains
We are in the process of finalising our Local Phasing Delivery Plan for the return to school and this will now be in place to support contingency arrangements should these be required. We are carefully considering the announcement made by the Scottish Government and the implications of this for Aberdeenshire.
The aspiration to welcome all pupils back is dependent on successfully reaching or being well on the way to Phase 4 of the Scottish Government Routemap. Local authorities including Aberdeenshire may well still need to enact the contingency arrangements put together to support a blended learning approach at some point and Councillor Gillian Owen is keen to reassure staff, as well as families, that the detailed work which has gone into planning has been very worthwhile.
Cllr Owen who chairs Aberdeenshire’s Education and Children’s Services Committee said
It is absolutely vital that plans to enact a blended learning approach are ready in case they are ever needed. I’d like to thank all of our staff who have gone above and beyond to deliver detailed contingency planning at the same time as continuing to support children and young people across Aberdeenshire. Our unsung heroes have also been delivering much more than simply childcare to the children of keyworkers and have taken great strides in innovative approaches to learning and teaching, all the while supporting their own families and communities.
Education Scotland is expected to review all local authority Local Phasing Delivery Plans later this week and following that Aberdeenshire Council will make this publicly available via its website.
Various other announcements were made as part of Mr Swinney’s speech in relation to funding for Newly Qualified Teachers and IT equipment, as well as a commitment to considering a new timetable for the rollout of 1140 extended early learning and childcare. It is anticipated that more detail will be forthcoming in the days ahead so that this can be shared with all of those this will impact upon.
In relation to the expansion of early learning and childcare specifically, Cllr Owen added
We are carefully considering how best to proceed with the expansion of early learning and childcare hours given what Mr Swinney has highlighted. We have written to funded providers to explain our position and we will keep them fully informed of our plans as and when decisions are made at national and local levels. We appreciate these are uncertain and unprecedented times for everyone and we thank you for your patience during this period, where change occurs very rapidly.
We are committed to ensuring that the expansion will still be delivered in full, but when this will be possible remains unclear.
Aberdeenshire’s Local Phasing Delivery Plan, which will now be considered and agreed as an appropriate contingency arrangement, was put together in line with the Scottish Government’s Re-opening schools guide.
Vice-chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce is keen to acknowledge that the aspiration to see all pupils back in school full-time in August is likely to raise many new questions for parents, staff and young people. She added
I’m keen to reassure everyone that health and safety, and wellbeing will always be a core consideration for us. We look forward to seeing more detail from the Scottish Government in the coming days and we will share the implications of that with you as soon as we can.
Cllr Gillian Owen and Laurence Findlay will be leading a Facebook Live session from the local authority’s Facebook @AberdeenshireCouncil page on Monday 29 June from 2pm to field questions. Parents and carers are encouraged to submit their questions in advance, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Further details on Covid-19 education arrangements are on the Aberdeenshire Council website.