Covid-19 Briefing for Pupils, Parents and Carers

Information correct at date of publication.

Last published on : Monday, 11 January, 2021 08:48 AM

This briefing is issued today to provide information about schools and learning from 11 January 2021. The details it contains are correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change at short notice. We will do all that we can to make sure pupils, parents and carers are informed of any changes.

We appreciate that this is a time of uncertainty and challenge, both for the children attending at schools and for those learning at home.

School offices are being staffed and they will act as the first point of contact for support and guidance. Please contact your child’s school office in the first instance.   


School Attendance and Online Learning

Children of Key Workers

Vulnerable Pupils

Remote and Online Learning Arrangements

School Transport

Meal Provision & Free School Meals

Hygiene, Safety & Cleaning Arrangements

Links to Latest Advice

School Attendance and Online Learning

For at least the week beginning 11th January, all schools will continue to operate and will be open to attendance for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, who will participate in learning in school. This includes nursery, primary and secondary provisions.

Key worker registration has now closed and schools will be provided with updated registers for Monday, confirming who is registered to attend. Further guidance about children of key workers is provided in the next section.

Schools will be identifying and contacting vulnerable pupils who will be permitted to attend.

All other pupils will commence online learning at home from 11th January. Schools will be contacting their own pupils and parents to provide details of the exact arrangements for that school.

Additional supporting information is also included in this briefing.

The period of restricted school attendance and online learning will be in place until Friday 29th January, with the possibility of schools returning fully from 1st February. The Scottish Government will be reviewing this decision on 18th January.

Children of Key Workers

With the Western Isles continuing to be under local protection level three (Tier Three), the Comhairle has seen high demand for new registrations in addition to those that were already registered from the 2020 lockdown.

Key worker registration is now closed and registers are being updated for issuing to schools on Monday. To allow time for registrations from today to be processed, parents will receive confirmation before Monday.

All key workers who have been approved from the 2020 lockdown or who have had an approval from a new application this week will be able to present their children at schools and nurseries.

Children attending at school from 11th January will do so on the basis of engagement in learning and will not be considered to be in childcare.

The following arrangements and conditions are in place: 

  • Key worker provision is at your child’s regular school or centre. Area hubs are not currently operating.
  • Schools will be open for their regular times and the start and finish of the school day will be as normal. This includes schools that operate an asymmetric week.
  • Drop-off and pick-up arrangements are unchanged, parents and carers must not enter school buildings and must wear a face covering when on school grounds.
  • Key Worker provision can only be used when you have absolutely no other childcare options available to you.
  • Children can only be at school whilst you physically attend at work unless a specific dispensation has been agreed with the Comhairle. Such dispensations can only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Key workers working from home are not eligible to access school attendance.
  • Larger schools may require an additional daily booking system to confirm attendance patterns. Your school will notify you if that is the case.

For nurseries, there is no additional allowance for childcare during these restrictions and any key worker intending to use nursery provision beyond their funded hours will incur a charge.

Vulnerable Pupils

During the period of restricted attendance, continuous provision will be made for vulnerable pupils to attend at school. This provision is put in place by mutual agreement between the school or nursery and the child’s parents. It is a matter for individual schools and nurseries to identify the pupils eligible for attendance due to vulnerabilities.

If you consider that your child should attend school as a vulnerable pupil, you should telephone your school and discuss this with the headteacher.

Remote and Online Learning Arrangements

From 11th January, learning will be remote and online for all pupils except children of confirmed key workers and pre-identified vulnerable pupils, who will be permitted to attend school.

Staff in all our schools have been working this week to prepare for the period of online and remote learning and they will be issuing information directly to their own pupils and parents about how to access the learning offer from the school.

This will vary from school to school and will be dependent on the age and stage of the learners. It will include accessing work on platforms such as Glow or Seesaw, connecting to live lessons and completing work in books and jotters issued by the school.

Please look out for information from your school and, if you have any questions, the first contact should be with your teacher or the school office.

In addition to the core offer from schools, we would highlight the following links to other online content to support learning at home.  

e-Sgoil – Lockdown Live

e-Sgoil has been working with national partners to create a national learning offer during the Covid-19 crisis.  It includes content for both primary and secondary learners and more information about it can be accessed on the e-Sgoil (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) website. 

e-Sgoil National Learning Offer

e-Sgoil has been working with national partners to create a national learning offer during the Covid-19 crisis. It includes content for both primary and secondary learners and more information about it can be accessed on the e-Sgoil (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) website.

BBC Lockdown Learning Offer

The BBC has confirmed that it is going to be making its largest ever offer to support learning at home. This will include a lot of additional programming on its channels and online. Information about this offer can be found on the BBC (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) website.

Schools will be sharing directly with you additional links that they are specifically recommending for engagement with learning.

Parents and pupils should be aware that, as teachers will be significantly engaged in the provision of learning in school as well as to those learning remotely, responses to messages and feedback on platforms such as Seesaw may not be immediate. It may also be the case that learning provision, in school or remotely, will be delivered by different teachers from those your child regularly has.

Use of Glow for Online Learning

Many pupils will be using their Glow accounts to engage with online learning. Access to Glow is strictly limited to pupils only. Pupils must login to devices themselves, and never disclose their password to anyone. If they have problems logging in this should be raised with their teacher or school.  Glow Community Rules (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)are available on the glow website.

The Glow User Agreement means that parents must not log in or use their child’s Glow account for any purpose.

In most cases, pupils in P1-3 do not have access to a Glow account and schools will be contacting parents and carers about alternative means of communicating and engaging with learning.

Using Microsoft Teams

Many schools will be increasing their use of Microsoft Teams as the main platform for connecting to live teaching and lessons. Microsoft Teams is typically accessed via the child’s Glow account.

Information is available to support parents and pupils with connecting to Microsoft Teams via the e-Sgoil website. This includes access to video tutorials: E-Sgoil Video Tutorials

This link also contains other video guides that parents and pupils may find useful.

Access to Computers & Learning Devices

Since August 2020, the Comhairle has been working to distribute personal computer devices to all secondary pupils and this has now been completed for Castlebay, Lionacleit and Sir E Scott secondaries and for S4-6 in the Nicolson Institute.

As a result of this programme, access to devices for remote learning has been considerably increased but it means that the Comhairle’s resources to provide a device lending service is reduced.

Where a family has no access to a device or does not have a connection to allow them to get online, they should contact their school to discuss the options available to them.

Instrumental Music Teaching

During the period of the current school restrictions, the Instrumental Music Service will revert to online teaching as was taking place during the 2020 lockdown. Tuition will be delivered via Teams or Vscene and staff will be in touch directly with schools and pupils to arrange timings for lessons.

Due to the continuing restrictions on the playing of brass, wind, piping and singing in schools it may not be possible to offer practical lessons on these instruments/disciplines if pupils are attending school premises as children of key workers/vulnerable pupils.

In this case the Instrumental Music Teachers (IMTs) will be encouraged to provide alternative music tuition for these pupils, as had been taking place over the previous two terms. Parents are asked to contact their child's school if they have any queries.

School Transport

It is expected that a school transport will operate as normal for Monday and Tuesday 11th & 12th January and will then be reviewed based demand over these days.

Following review, some services will revert to being ‘on-demand’ and information will be provided to parents next week about how to request the on-demand services

Meal Provision & Free School Meals

Meal provision will be available at all schools where pupils are attending. It is possible that menu choices will be changed and catering staff will liaise with school offices to communicate any changes with parents.

The Comhairle will be working next week to issue a financial payment to all families with children who are eligible for Free School Meals to compensate for the restrictions on attendance at school.

Hygiene, Safety & Cleaning Arrangements

All hygiene, safety and protection measures that were in place in schools before the holidays will continue to operate at schools. Parents should not enter school buildings and masks must be worn when on school grounds.

Day cleaners will continue in the schools that have pupils and staff in attendance. After school cleaning will continue with additional deep cleans taking place whilst attendance levels are low.

Links to Latest Advice

The following links provide access to the most current published arrangements relating to Covid-19.

Scottish Government Coronavirus Index of Information (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Scottish Government Latest Protection Levels (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Scottish Government Advice for Travel & Transport (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

Scottish Government International Travel Advice (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)

CNES Coronavirus Information Page

NHS Western Isles Coronavirus Site (Opens in a new window or downloads a file)