School Closures and FAQs for Pupils and Parents

School Closures

We have been notified by Scottish Government that all schools and nurseries will close by the end of this week. We will update when more information becomes available.

The Director of Education, Skills and Children's Services has set up a Director's Blog (Opens in a new window or downloads a file) which contains up to date information and a list of frequently asked and  answered questions.

22/03/20 : Latest Scottish Government Advice - S4-S6 pupils should not attend school now to complete coursework.  Pupils should only attend school if identified vulnerable or a child of key worker.

20/03/20 at 2.00pm:  Education, Skills and Children's Services Staff will hold a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community.  

FAQs for Pupils and Parents

We aim to provide detailed answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) but note that they are accurate at the time of publication on Monday 23rd March 2020 and information may be superseded by any further announcements by Scottish or UK Government.

Continuing Provision in Schools and Nurseries

Distant and Remote Learning From Home

Educational Continuity for S4-6 and SQA Exams

Continuing Support

Staffing Matters

Continuing Provision in Schools and Nurseries

What Children Will be Eligible to Continue to Attend Education in School Buildings?

CNES is following the guidance issued by Scottish Government on Thursday that defines who will be eligible to access learning in school buildings. Scottish Government has been clear that the numbers physically attending at school must be kept to an absolute operational minimum. They fall into two broad categories:

  • The children of identified key workers where no other childcare option is available to them.
  • Vulnerable pupils in categories defined by Scottish Government and identified by CNES staff.

CNES officers and school staff are working hard to identify pupils who can attend school from next week and will get information to parents and pupils as soon as is possible.

What is a Key Worker?

The Scottish Government has classified key workers into three categories and only employees that meet these classifications will be able to attend schools where circumstances mean that they have no other childcare options available to them. The Scottish Government classifications are:

Category One 

Health and care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; health and care workers supporting life-threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; Energy suppliers; staff providing learning and childcare.

Category Two

All other healthcare workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (e.g. Fire, Police, Prisons, Social Workers, etc.), as well as those supporting critical national infrastructure, without whom, serious damage to welfare could be caused.

Category Three

All workers without whom there could be significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to Covid-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).

What Information has the Comhairle Provided About Identifying Key Workers?

We have used the above three categories to issue the following guidance to support employers and employees to be identified as key workers.

  • You should be a key member of staff i.e. delivering direct care to patients/clients in an NHS or social care setting (hospital, care home or homecare). This is also includes ancillary support staff, social workers, allied health professionals, cleaners, porters and catering staff).

  • You should be a member of school staff (e.g. teacher, support worker, catering staff, janitorial or admin).
  • You should be providing direct emergency service provision (e.g. fire, ambulance, police, coastguard).
  • You should be a worker in the utilities sector (e.g. Hydro, water board, gas).
  • You should be a worker in the transport sector (ferry, planes, hauliers, deliveries of food, buses).
  • You should be a worker in food and/or retail distribution (e.g. butcher, chemist, supermarket worker, small shops providing food).

Education, like other services, is working with a reduced level of staff. Therefore, other support staff, in relation to the above criteria - such as admin, HR functions and finance - should have approval of line management and their names provided to the Education department from Monday onwards.

I am a Key Worker. How Can I Access the School Provision?

We are working with critical partner agencies that have employees in the key worker categories and confirm access to the provision. To access the provision, we are asking key workers that meet the definitions prescribed in Q3 to self-identify at the school on Monday morning. We are exploring implementation of a registration system from Tuesday onwards.

I am the Parent of a Vulnerable child. What are my Entitlements?

Scottish Government has defined specific vulnerability criteria that the Comhairle will honour in terms of maintaining a physical provision in school buildings and we recognise that a protracted period of school closure will place a lot of pressure on families supporting vulnerable children. We will be contacting the parents of children that will be able to continue to attend school. Where that will not be possible, we will be working with our school, Children’s Services and CLD staff to provides other forms of support, which may take different forms. We expect that vulnerable children working from home will receive enhanced access to teaching staff working remotely.  We also recognise that extended periods of time at home may present mental health pressures for some young people and we will be working with Comhairle and partner agencies to provide methods of remote support.

My Child is in S4-6. Do they have to Attend?

No, the latest advice from Scottish Government on 22nd March 2020 is that S4-6 pupils should not attend to complete coursework. More SQA information is provided in the relevant section below.

What Schools will be Open?

At the moment, the Comhairle is planning to have all schools open to some degree next week for the pupils as defined in Q1. W e intend to review this during the week when we know more about the numbers of pupils and staff who are attending at different sites and where we can work to centralise provision to minimise contact and travel. We also recognise that this is a complex and dynamic crisis and advice from government may change at any time, resulting in provision being withdrawn.

What about School Transport?

We expect school transport to operate as normal next week and are working with operators to achieve this. Continuing school transport will also be reviewed during the week as we consider the schools that will continue to open. If provisions are centralised, transport will be provided and parents notified.

My Child is Eligible to Attend School. What will Education Look Like?

We aim to provide a quality experience for any children who will attend at school buildings and will work with teaching staff to deliver a programme of learning but you should expect that this may be different to the typical programmes of study in school.

Will My Child Need to Wear a School Uniform?

No. Schools will be relaxing any dress code requirements during this period of closure. Some schools may plan physical activity sessions and it would be advisable to send your child to school with a PE kit.

What About Nurseries? Will My Child Still be Able to Attend?

The provisions for those attending early learning and childcare provisions will be the same as that for schools and is set out in Q1. Children who will be continuing to attend due to meeting the criteria, and who currently have a full-year placement will be able to continue to receive provision during the upcoming Easter holidays.

Will School Meals be Provided if My Child is Attending at a School?

The matter of school meals is addressed in more detail in the ‘Support’ section below but school canteens will continue to operate in the schools that are open to identified pupils and meals will be available for those attending.

Will there be school provision available during the Easter break for those who are eligible to attend?

Will There be School Provision Available During the Easter Break for Those who are Eligible to Attend?

The Comhairle is currently looking at ways to provide a degree of continuing provision during the Easter break at school buildings for those who are eligible. These plans are in the early stages and we will confirm them in due course but we hope to offer support, where needed, which might involve fewer centres being open, or over more limited times.

Has the Health and Safety of Staff and Pupils Working in Schools Been Considered?

The health and wellbeing of both our staff and pupils is paramount to the Comhairle. We continue to provide HR advice to employees based on the latest Government advice about self-isolation and protective factors. As the Government set out on Thursday,  apart from the pupils set out in Q1, learning and teaching will take place remotely and, where staff and learners will attend physically at school buildings, all existing hygiene protocols will be in place in relation to handwashing, cleanliness, visitor restrictions and social distancing. We are also initiating a deep clean of schools early next week.

Distant and Remote Learning from Home

If I Don’t Want to Use Home and Remote Learning, Can My Child Attend School?

No, physical attendance at school buildings will be strongly restricted to those categories set out in Q1 and only pre-identified pupils will be allowed to enter school buildings after receiving prior approval.

What Work Will My Child be Doing?

Schools have been working hard in the last two weeks to create home learning packs and providing access and links to online content that is suitable to the age and stage of your children. Schools are also issuing information about how remote video lessons and platforms such as SeeSaw, StudyLadder, Education City, Class Dojo and Scholar can be used. These are just examples of some platforms being used by schools and you should contact your headteacher for more information if you want to find out what your school will be using.

Where Can I Get Support if I Need Help With Home Learning?

Schools have been setting up pupils to have access to a Glow e-mail account. This is a secure education communication platform where pupils will be able to send e-mails to teaching staff to ask questions or raise queries. Teachers will be able to respond and, where possible, could set up a video tutorial. We also expect all school offices to be staffed next week and telephone support can be made available by contacting the normal school office number. The Schools IT support service will continue to operate during the closure period and will be able to provide technical support. This can be accessed by contacting the school or your child’s teacher.

I Intend to Educate My Child at Home in Broader ‘Life Skills’. Will I be Able to do This or Will There be a Full Timetable?

Schools will not be issuing a full daily timetable of activities and the home learning packs being issued are not intended to occupy children fully for the duration of the day. We would welcome the contribution of parents and carers in developing holistic activities and programmes that they think will benefit their child during this time.

The Work That Was Provided Has All Been Completed. What Should I do?

Please make contact with the school or e-mail the teacher, if that has been provided. They will be able to advise about further work or make additional activities available online or through Glow. Please note that no additional physical materials will be issued other than that already sent home. It will not be possible to return complete work to school and collect more.

How Long Will Schools be Closed? How Long Will My Child be Learning at Home?

At the moment, the Scottish Government has stated that they do not believe that schools will reopen after the Easter break and may be closed right through to the summer holidays. The Comhairle is planning at two levels at the moment. We are working in the immediacy to plan for the next couple of weeks but are also developing longer-term strategies to support a potential closure through to the summer. We will continue to share plans with pupils, parents and staff when we are in a position to do so.

Educational Continuity for S4-6 and SQA Exams

Will the Exams go Ahead in 2020?

No.  The Scottish Government announced on Thursday 19th March 2020 that the full exam diet for 2020 has been cancelled. There will be no exams this year.

No Exams! How Will my Child Get Their Qualifications?

The SQA has announced that, instead of exams, a combination approach will be used this year to decide on the awarding of qualifications at National, Higher and Advanced Higher levels. This will involve a mix of coursework, teacher estimates of awards and information about prior attainment. All this information will be submitted to the SQA for assessment and results are expected to be sent to students as normal around 4th  August 2020.

What Does it Mean When it Says That S4-6 Attend School to Complete Coursework?

This is no longer advised by Scottish Government, following new advice issued on 22nd March 2020. If pupils have coursework that can be finished remotely, schools will be in contact with pupils to arrange that. No S4-6 pupils should attend at school unless the fall into the key worker or vulnerable categories described above.

Continuing Support

My Child is Eligible For Free School Meals. Will They Continue to be Provided?

School canteens will be open next week and will be able to provide meals for FSM eligible pupils who are attending. We are also working on ways to provide meals to FSM pupils who are not attending and this may include provision in school, delivery of packed lunches or a voucher/payment systems. We are still working on this and will inform parents about plans as soon as possible.

My Circumstances Have Now Changed Due to Loss of Employment Because of Coronavirus. Am I Now Eligible?

Applications for Free School Meals are open all year round and, if you think you are eligible, please contact the council on 01851 600501 and ask to speak to Education Resources about Free School Meals.

My Child is in Receipt of EMAs or Other Council-Funded Financial Support. Will This Still be Available?

Yes. The Comhairle is currently arranging for advance block payments covering the period up to 5th June 2020 to be made to all those in receipt of these financial supports

My Child or Family Has Been Receiving Support From Children’s Services. Will That Continue?

The Chief Social Work Officer is working with his team to make sure that on-going family support will be available. It is likely that this will now take different forms, such as telephone calls or video links rather than home visits. We will endeavour to maintain support to families wherever possible and contact numbers remain the same. Key Social Work staff have been distributed across our network to strengthen resilience during this time.

My Child Has Been Receiving Support in School For Their Learning. Will That Continue?

If your child is considered to be vulnerable and is eligible for support at school buildings, this will continue to be the case for the time being. If your child is going to be accessing education at home, we are aiming to provide enhances remote support, where it’s possible to do so and service resources allow. If you have a concern about this, please contact your school office in the first instance.

Staffing Matters

FAQs relating to staff have been addressed on the Director of Education, Skills and Children's Services Blog (Opens in a new window or downloads a file).