Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services Laurence Findlay shared a further update with families across Aberdeenshire last week following the First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday 2 March regarding the phased return to face-to-face schooling.
The arrangements announced will see a full return to primary schools from Monday 15 March 2021 further to a final checkpoint this week (11 March), ensuring that continued progress is being made across the country with regards to tackling the virus.
Laurence is keen to explain why the situation in secondary schools is more complex, where 2m physical distancing will be required among all senior pupils up to the Easter holidays.
This will have a significant impact on how many young people we can have in school at any given time. Across Aberdeenshire we have 17 secondary schools, all with different schools rolls, different transportation requirements, different capacities in terms of available space and different staffing availability. Only one third of the overall school roll is likely to be able to be accommodated in the school building at any given time given the 2m physical distancing requirement.
For some schools in Aberdeenshire, school transport will pose a particular challenge, where 1m physical distancing among pupils will also be a requirement. For some schools around 20% of those attending use school transport where as for others as many as 80% of pupils arrive by school bus.
Between now and March 15 each school is developing plans for the period until the end of term on 1st April and will share this with parents and carers.
Families have been asked for their understanding in terms of the following key points:
- Each school will decide on the number of pupils who can be in school each day based on available accommodation, staffing availability, transport availability and other constraints.
- Each school will have flexibility to deliver what is best for their learners based on the 2m physical distancing requirement.
- Some schools will have an imbalance in numbers across different year groups which will exacerbate the timetabling challenges they face.
- More staff will now be needed in school settings and as such will not necessarily be available to support the remote learning. Schools will do everything they can to continue supporting remote learning, including signposting to nationally developed materials.
- We will work with schools to augment in-school learning with an appropriate outdoor learning and health and wellbeing package to support learner wellbeing where we have available staffing and facilities.
- The recommendation is that face coverings are worn at all times by both staff and pupils in secondary schools and on all school transport.
A further update will be provided after the Scottish Government’s final checkpoint Thursday, before any new arrangements for next week are confirmed.
It should be noted that there is a huge amount of planning required to enable 2m physical distancing in our schools and this work is being done at a rapid pace. As ever, I would ask for the support and forbearance of parents and carers and would ask you to show understanding to your schools who are again dealing with more changes at pace.
I would like to reassure all parents and carers, some of whom are colleagues, that schools and the service are putting in place measures to make sure that the return to school is managed as safely and stress free as possible and this is being done in line with Scottish Government and NHS guidance. “I would encourage any young person, parent or carer who has a query or a concern to contact their school in the first instance. There is also a wealth of online resources available providing information and support.
More information and support, including details of the technical guidance schools will follow, is available on the Scottish Government’s website: Coronavirus in Scotland – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)