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Contingency planning is 'well under way' to tackle coronavirus-enforced changes to school term times in the New Year, promises Highland Council


By Philip Murray

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Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..
Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..
Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..
Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..

PLANS are "already well under way" to make the Covid-enforced delayed return to school after Christmas was seamless as possible, Highland Council has said.

The local authority is busy preparing for the start of 2021, following the "surprise" announcement that the school holiday period will be extended to January 11.

Chairman of the education committee, Cllr John Finlayson said: “We appreciate that the Government’s announcement at the weekend came as a surprise to everyone including pupils and parents.

"I want to reassure everyone that planning is already well under way in schools for the new arrangements after Christmas and discussions have taken place with headteachers and the unions.

"As always, we will continue to work to make sure that our staff and pupils are as safe as possible while delivering quality education and learning.

"I want to thank all our staff who work in schools who are working hard preparing for our schools return in 2021 and also our pupils and parents for their patience and understanding during these challenging times.”

There are three phases to the return to Highland schools next term:

1) From 6 January to 8 January

All schools will only be open for the children of key workers and for children who are vulnerable. Children and young people attending school during these dates will be supervised by staff and should take with them enough to keep them busy throughout the day. Provision may be limited to in-school childcare and wellbeing support as the holiday has been extended until 11 January, though of course children and young people can choose to do some school work if they want to. School transport and catering will operate as normal for those children and young people who will be in school and normal school attendance times will apply.

For all children and young people not identified as children of key workers or as vulnerable, the school holiday continues and they should not attend school.

If you are a key worker you are not obliged to send your child to school or to use childcare if you can make other arrangements and, indeed, you may prefer to keep them at home if you can.

2) From 11 January to 15 January

All schools will switch from offering childcare and wellbeing support to offering learning and teaching for those children and young people in school – attendance in schools will still be restricted to necessary staff, vulnerable children and children of key workers. Children in these categories in school will be supervised as they work on the online learning provided by their teachers.

During this time learning will also commence online for all other pupils not in school. Your school will be in touch prior to 11 January with the details of online learning.

The council has also moved to assure parents that from 6-15 January all children attending school will have access to their usual school transport and school meals provision. If your child will not be attending school but is usually in receipt of free school meals then you will receive vouchers.

3) From Monday 18 January onwards

From this date, the plan is that schools will be open as normal, with the same arrangements in place as were in place from October to December. As before, rules will apply about social distancing, face coverings, movement around the school building and so on. Your school will let you know if there are any changes to these rules. Teaching will be face to face in classrooms as usual.

This will be subject to further decisions, guidance and advice received from the Scottish Government.

Executive chief officer for education and learning, Nicky Grant, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff, officers, parents and young people for their support during this difficult time.

"From the beginning of the pandemic, we have continued to follow national guidance. The letter we have issued to our parents and carers today reflects this advice and provides information to where support can be accessed.”



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