Return to school for staff and pupils

The Council has been liaising closely with the Scottish Government throughout lockdown and has been following all guidance issued to ensure that any return is safe and that our staff, children and young people are protected.

Detailed and extensive plans are being prepared through working groups that involve Head Teachers, employees from across the Council, the unions, Parent Councils, professional associations and Pupil Councils, ensuring that all voices are being heard as the Council moves towards phased reopening. The Young Peoples’ Cabinet is continuing to sit virtually and will also be involved in the planning process.

Linda McAulay-Griffiths, Head of Education said: “Each local authority across Scotland has been tasked by the Scottish Government to develop a local phasing plan and is this well underway in East Ayrshire.

“From Monday 15 June some staff will return to our schools subject to risk assessments being completed. Head Teachers will determine which staff will attend school and will use this week to prepare for some pupils returning the following week.

“Our priority will be pupils who will be entering P1 and S1 after the summer and young people who require an enhanced transition. Schools will be holding transition events before the summer holiday starts. These won’t be full day events and may even be virtual events where that is possible. Each school will assess their own needs and requirements and will be supported by teams from across the Council, including transport, to put measures in place to ensure staff and pupils are safe and protected.”

Throughout lockdown special educational hubs have remained open for the children and young people of key workers and for vulnerable children and young people.

The Council’s award winning Facilities Management team has been responsible for daily enhanced cleans of these facilities and since May have been carrying out deep cleans of every educational establishment.

An enhanced clean is specifically designed to provide, not only a high level of daily cleaning, but a special focus on touch points throughout the building. The team also use Innu science cleaning products which ensures cutting edge, long lasting and effective cleaning. These products minimise the risk of infection by leaving a protective layer on all surfaces. The teams will also use electrostatic spray guns to mist clean all public areas.

The Council has formed a dedicated Health and Safety team to oversee all educational facilities, providing guidance, support with risk assessments and advice to ensure staff and pupils are safe and protected. PPE has been purchased for staff that have been assessed as requiring protective equipment to perform their jobs safely.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “We are living in exceptional times and planning a return to school for staff and pupils is complex. We have gathered teams with different skills and expertise to provide support and guidance in all areas, including physical changes to classroom layout, cleaning, procurement of PPE, health and safety and wellbeing for staff and pupils.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in East Ayrshire. Every school will assess their own needs, for June and August, and will be supported by the Council to ensure that their needs are met and that staff, children and young people are safe and protected.

“I know that our little ones and young people have missed school, their teachers and their friends and want to get back to normal. Unfortunately we can’t go back to normal at the moment but we can create a positive learning environment and ensure that our children and young people are safely supported to achieve their full potential.”

The Scottish Government recently announced that Tuesday 11 August has been set as a national date for the return of schools.

Linda McAulay-Griffiths said: “I am aware that the return date set by the Scottish Government has caused some concern for families and I will let staff, parents and carers know if there is any movement on this date.

“We are all working together to consider how we could phase in-school learning for August onwards. Safety will always be our main concern and it is clear that social distancing will remain in place for the foreseeable future. This means that we can’t have all pupils in school on a full-time basis.

“We are planning a blended approach of in-school and learning at home. I understand that this temporary way of learning will mean that families need to make adjustments for work and childcare arrangements. Our in-school learning is likely to involve smaller groups of children coming in for part of the week and learning at home for the rest of the week. Outdoor learning will be used wherever possible. Staff will provide tasks and activities to be carried out at home and these will be set by teachers while children and young people are at school as part of their learning experience.

“I recognise that there will be further information needed for parents and carers going forward and I fully intend to issue more details, particularly on August return dates, in advance of the summer holiday.

“This period continues to be challenging for us all, particularly as we face an unknown future in regard to lockdown rules and when these may indeed change, so I thank you so much for your patience and understanding at this time.”

A parental survey will be issued shortly through school apps. Please take the time to complete this survey, your views matter and will help shape Council plans over the coming months.

Emergency childcare will continue to be provided over the summer for the children and young people of key workers. Parents and carers will be informed of any changes to the location of the childcare hubs as plans develop.