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Highland Council details plans ahead of August return of schools as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased

By Ian Duncan

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Nicky Grant.
Nicky Grant.

Preparations are being made by Highland Council ahead of the planned return to school in August.

The council's head of education, Nicky Grant, has outlined the steps being taken in a letter which has been sent to parents and carers.

School buildings have been closed since March 23, as directed by the Scottish Government in response to the Covid-19 crisis, with youngsters being taught at home.

The government has since issued guidance to schools which states that the start date of the new term will be August 11.

In Highland this will be an in-service day for staff with some children starting the return to school the following day and others following after that, on a planned programme.

In her letter Ms Grant said plans for the reopening of schools are based on scientific and medical advice and are in line with public health measures.

She added: "Great care is being taken to make sure it is safe for staff and pupils to return to school in August."

A range of hygiene measures are being put in place including: increased hand-washing facilities/ availability of hand sanitisers; regular and enhanced cleaning of surfaces; plans in case of suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19; and ongoing and updated risk assessments.

Because of the challenges faced by children during the school closures schools will work to provide additional and appropriate support to children where it is most needed.

Ms Grant said: "They will focus on maximising children’s engagement with their learning.

"Teachers will be very focused on identifying and closing gaps in children’s learning."

She said that during the return physical distancing would impact on capacity and added: "Each school will aim to create as much capacity as possible for children to be in the school in August.

"It will not be possible to have all children in school at the same time for reasons of safety. Planning will be based on making best use of available staff and careful planning to make sure that the spaces being used are safe.

"Appropriate risk assessments will be carried out, and health and safety assessment checks will lead to changes if that is found to be necessary.

"Our plans will make sure we are following national advice about social distancing, including in staff spaces (such as staff rooms).

"This will help us to work out what the capacity will be in each school for pupils to attend. We are working closely with service partners as we plan."

Other measures which could be put in place include: teaching in smaller groups; minimising the mixing of groups of children in school; reorganising seating positions so that children and staff are a safe distance apart; increasing the use of outdoor spaces for learning; staggering arrival and departure times; and giving clear guidance to parents about dropping off and picking up children from school.

Ms Grant said: "Schools will take every precaution to make sure that everyone is safe. We will need families to help us with this by following the national guidance about Covid-19.

"If a staff member or child develops a new continuous cough, fever, or a loss of, or change in, their sense of smell or taste (anosmia), they should stay at home and not attend school."

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