Schools Update - Phased Return to In-School Learning

Find out the latest position on schools reopening and phased return.

Speech bubble update

Updated - 8 April 2021

Dear Parents/Carers 

RETURN TO SCHOOL FOR SECONDARY PUPILS FROM 12 APRIL 2021 

I hope you and your family had an enjoyable holiday. 

The First Minister announced yesterday that, having assessed the data with the input of national clinical advisors, virtually all pupils will return to school full-time after the Easter holiday. For us in Dumfries and Galloway this is Monday, 12 April. This will be a relief for our secondary pupils who watched their younger neighbours and siblings go back to school some weeks ago. I thank all our secondary pupils for their patience, sticking with the rules and with their remote learning. 

The one exception to the full-time, face-to-face return is children who are on the shielding list. The Government is continuing to recommend to families that shielded children stay at home until 26 April. I know this will be hard for this small number of children not yet able to join their friends and I ask for their patience for two more weeks, in line with advice from Scotland's Chief Medical Officer. 

The return to school will involve, as it did last August, the removal of strict 2m physical distancing between pupils in secondary school, again, according to Government guidelines - but we are asking schools to consider how they strengthen other mitigations. I also ask parents to continue to keep themselves and others safe by not congregating when dropping children off and only entering schools by prior arrangement. 

We continue to promote the measures in place to keep everyone safe including regular cleaning throughout the day, good ventilation, and regular asymptomatic testing for COVID for all staff and secondary aged pupils. Face coverings will play a key role in keeping everyone safe in our schools. All secondary pupils will be expected to wear a face covering, unless they are exempt. Information on exemptions and a form for parents to complete is on our website: https://supportdg.dumgal.gov.uk/face-covering-exemptions 

We will continue to work with Public Health in order to quickly identify and limit any outbreaks that do arise and take their advice to keep everyone safe. I am confident our schools are well prepared and ready for all pupils returning to classrooms at the beginning of the new term on 12 April. 

The announcement this week has given us a spring in our step, and we look forward to all pupils and staff returning to school on Monday. 

Yours sincerely 

Gillian Brydson 

Director Skills, Education and Learning

 

Updated - 25 March 2021

Dear Parents/Carers

We are delighted to be, once again, welcoming back our children and young people to their schools to continue with their learning.  Our younger learners have been back in school for some weeks now - I hope children have enjoyed being back with their friends, their teachers and support staff. I know our staff teams will plan learning to make sure your child's talents are nurtured and needs met.

As the Deputy First Minister stated on Wednesday, we hope that all children will be back in school full-time from 12 April.  This will be a welcome development for pupils, parents and staff. We will make sure that we support young people to move their learning forward from where they are in ways which meet their individual needs.

I would like to thank all pupils, parents and staff for continuing to stick to the rules, looking out for each other and working with us to make remote learning work as well as it has.

As we plan for return to school buildings, we continue to promote the measures in place to keep everyone safe including regular cleaning throughout the day and regular asymptomatic testing for COVID for all staff and secondary aged pupils. Face coverings will play a key role in keeping everyone safe in our schools.  All secondary pupils will be expected to wear a face covering, unless they are exempt.  Information on exemptions and a form for parents to complete is on our website: https://supportdg.dumgal.gov.uk/face-covering-exemptions

We continue to work closely with public health, and we can be confident our schools are well prepared and ready for pupils returning to classrooms.

As we approach spring break, I wish you all a happy holiday knowing that we can look forward to coming together again with a full time return for all pupils in Dumfries & Galloway's schools from 12 April.

Yours sincerely

Gillian Brydson

Director Skills, Education and Learning

 

Updated - 9 March 2021

Find out the latest position on phase 2 return to schools from 15 March 2021.

Primary Schools

All pupils will return to school from 15 March.

School transport will be available as normal at the start and the end of the school day. School meals will be available.

Secondary Schools

From 15 March secondary pupils will return to school on a part-time basis.

This will mean:

  1. S1 to S3 pupils will attend one-day in-school learning per week.
  2. S4 to S6 pupils will attend at least one-day in-school learning per week.
  3. S4 to S6 pupils, who require to do so, will still be able to complete practical work throughout the week, in the day(s) that they are currently attending school.

School transport will be available as normal at the start and the end of the school day and school meals will be available at lunchtime.

The days that pupils are not attending school will continue to be supported by remote learning, which continues to be the main focus on learning and teaching.

As the days for each year group attending school differs school by school, further details will be provided as soon as we are able.

These arrangements are until the end of term on 26 March.  On 12 April, that's after the Easter holidays, it's expected that all pupils will return to school as normal.

Updated - 2 March 2021

Dear Parents / Carers

I wanted to write to you all following our first week back after our mid-term break and to also look to the weeks ahead following the First Minister's announcement today.

After many weeks at home, it has been good to see the re-introduction of in-person teaching within our schools. Our Headteachers have said how nice it has been to welcome staff and learners back to classrooms last week. The Scottish Government's phased approach has provided an opportunity to review practices on a smaller scale, ensuring that they meet the guidance as well as allowing our teachers to focus on welcoming pupils back, focussing on their needs and to restart in-class learning again. This initial re-opening of our schools to some of our learners is a positive step towards the reintroduction of in person learning for all.

For our pupils who remain at home, positive feedback on remote learning is providing reassurance that good progress is being made in covering the required course content. Schools will continue to encourage and support leaners, and to monitor their engagement in the remote learning provision.

For our Senior Phase pupils, we already know that the 2021 exam diet has been cancelled. We have now received confirmation of the Scottish Qualification Authority's (SQA) alternative certification arrangements for this year. Across the Scottish education system, actions will now be taken to ensure that pupils have time to complete the necessary assessments needed by their teachers. More information will be sent in a letter from the Chief Education Officer to parents this week.

As our schools plan for the reintroduction of learning for some pupils, the Supporting Learners' Service is also having to make changes. Its teaching and non-teaching staff will now be based in schools to help provide early learning and childcare, in-school learning and in-school childcare for vulnerable and key worker children. Providing this support will inevitably impact on our capacity to undertake the additional support for learning activities normally undertaken at this time, including supporting transition planning, preparation of Individual Education Plans, involvement in child planning, and direct support to children, young people and families.

Within our schools, we continue to work with new measures in place in order to keep everyone safe including the use of social distancing, face coverings, regular cleaning throughout the day, staggered break and lunch times and dedicated seating plans so that we are able to provide levels of mitigation within our school environment. Coupled with this, our staff and senior phase pupils are now undertaking regular asymptomatic testing to reduce coronavirus-related risks in schools and, in so doing, to enhance the confidence of our school communities.

Against this backdrop of our youngest and senior pupils returning and asymptomatic testing in place, the First Minister today outlined the Scottish Government's plan for all our pupils to return to classrooms. From 15 March, all our primary pupils will be returning to school. All secondary pupils in Scotland will also return to classrooms but on a part-time basis from 15 March. Although a phased approach means that everyone will not be returning until after the Easter break, it does give us a date to look forward to. We await the details from the Scottish Government following today's announcement and will work with our Headteachers on specific plans that will see all our pupils return to classrooms. I will be in touch with more information in due course.

I am optimistic that in a few weeks' time, we will have all our teachers and pupils back in our schools and learning again. Today's announcement allows us to see some light at the end of the tunnel which I know we are all looking forward to.

Yours sincerely

Gillian Brydson

Director, Education and Learning
 

Updated - 17 February 2021

Phased Return to In-School Learning

I hope all families enjoyed the mid-term break, having some time away from remote learning even though we could not stray far from our homes.

I wrote to all parents on the 11 February where I set out what was planned for Dumfries and Galloway schools from 22 February, recognising that this would be finalised by the Scottish Government on the 16 February. The First Minister confirmed in Parliament yesterday that in-school learning would return on a phased basis from 22 February, beginning with early years and Primary 1-3, who will return full time, and small groups from the senior phase (S4-S6), who will have access to school buildings to undertake essential practical work. There are some exceptions around very small schools where there are staffing pressures and we are working with Headteachers to balance the arrangements for in-school and remote learning in these circumstances.

Thank you for all you are doing to support your child's learning. We have heard from our schools how good the response has been to remote learning; I hope that you have found the communication and advice from your school to be supportive. I know some children have enjoyed learning at home, some have found it very hard - and as parents we have had to juggle work too. Overall, I have seen lots of activity across social media of the great work being done by children, young people and families. We are all learning what works well, and how we can build on this for the pupils who are not coming back to face to face learning just yet. We all hope it will be not be too long before we can all be back together.

The Scottish Government has published updated guidance which sets out the arrangements for school education in February/March 2021 and have set out some of these links on our website. Our Headteachers and staff will be working on what this means for their own school and I have asked them to keep you up to date. Thank you to the Dumfries and Galloway Parent/Council forum for helping us share messages and letting us know where we need to do more.

This letter sets out the general arrangements applicable to all schools:

Stage/Group

 

Arrangements from 22 February

Early Learning & Childcare - schools and funded providers

 

Full time return for all children on 22/02/21, based on previous attendance patterns. There will be a phased approach for those children who were scheduled to start for the first time after Christmas. As before, children will form "bubbles" where they are grouped together to minimise interaction and reduce infection transmission risks. Headteachers will contact you with specific information in the coming days.

 

P1-P3

 

Full time return for all children on 22/02/21. As before, children will remain in their class groups with interaction between groups kept to a minimum, again to reduce infection transmission risks

 

P4-S3

 

Continue with remote learning at home for the time being. Plans for the next phase of the return to in-school learning will be announced by the Scottish Government in the weeks ahead.

 

S4-S6

 

All pupils will continue with remote learning at home. In addition, for small groups at a time, access to the school building will be arranged only to complete essential, practical work as part of national qualifications. The Scottish Government has capped attendance at a maximum of 8% of the school roll on any one day. Individual schools are currently working on detailed plans for limited access to school buildings for senior phase pupils. Headteachers will contact you with specific information in the coming days.

 

Children of key workers / vulnerable children P4-S6

 

Continue to access school as before, following the same pattern as previously. For key workers the principle remains that, in line with government advice, this facility is only to be used in exceptional circumstances, on days where families have no alternative option.

 

Children and young people at the highest clinical risk

 

Children and young people at the highest clinical risk (individuals on the shielding list) have also been advised by the Chief Medical Officer not to attend school or regulated childcare services during lockdown. Parents can consult with their child's secondary care (hospital) clinical team who may advise that an individualised risk assessment could be undertaken with the school or childcare provision and arrangements put in place which may allow your child to continue to attend when establishments re-open.

 

 

Clearly, whilst the situation is improving gradually, the virus has not gone away and as such we need to be more vigilant than ever in continuing to take steps to ensure we keep transmission levels as low as possible. The paragraphs below set out the general arrangements which will be applicable to all parents with children returning to school from next week:

Health and Safety

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our pupils and staff remains paramount. Risk assessments for all schools are being updated in light of the newly published guidance. In all schools there continues to be 2m physical distancing for all adults. In secondary schools, 2m physical distancing will apply to everyone in the building, including pupils. As the phased return begins next week, we will again reinforce with pupils and staff the key messages about the current effective mitigations to control virus transmission: face coverings for adults and senior phase pupils; regular hand washing routines and good ventilation. We appreciate your support in ensuring that your child does not attend school if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms. We ask for your support in reinforcing these messages with your child at home.

Drop off and pick up

As before, schools may implement staggered start and finish times, to safely manage drop off and pick-up times. Given the ongoing stay at home message in place across Scotland, we would ask that, if possible, only one parent/carer comes to the school at drop off and pick-up times. In line with government advice, we would ask you to maintain 2m physical distancing with other parents at the school gates. All schools will continue to restrict access to their grounds and/or buildings. As before, face coverings should continue to be worn by all adults (unless exempted) when they go to the school.

Staffing

Our staff continue to be focused on supporting your child to make progress in their learning, whether in school or at home. We would like to thank our staff for their dedication, flexibility and resilience in these challenging circumstances and for their commitment to educational continuity in uncertain times. To support the phased return to schools, additional staffing will be in place in many of our schools. It may also be that some children are not taught by their usual class teacher. For many, we know that remote learning will continue, and we will continue to provide the highest quality learning possible.

Catering

Free School Meals will be provided to all Early Learning and P1-3 pupils who return to in-school learning. In addition, our canteen facilities will also be available to senior phase pupils who are attending school for practical subjects.

Transport

Transport will be provided as normal to all eligible pupils returning to school. In secondary school transport, 2m physical distancing will be observed as an additional mitigation measure. Face coverings should be worn by all children and young people aged over 5, in line with the government position on public transport. Car sharing with someone from another household continues to be strongly discouraged at this time.

Asymptomatic home testing for staff and senior phase pupils

As part of the range of COVID-19 risk reduction mitigations in schools, an asymptomatic testing programme is being made available to all staff and senior phase pupils. Participation in the programme will be encouraged but voluntary. Regular testing will help to identify asymptomatic individuals in school environments at the earliest possible opportunity and ask them and their close contacts to self-isolate, thus minimising the likelihood of them passing on the virus.

Further information is available on the asymptomatic testing programme: SupportDG - Dumfries and Galloway Council - Asymptomatic Testing in Scottish Primary, Secondary and Special Schools, and ELC Providers (dumgal.gov.uk)

Testing of close contacts

Beginning this week, close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will be asked to go for a test. This will not affect the period of isolation, regardless of the result. In a similar way to the regular testing programme outlined above, the testing of close contacts will help Public Health to understand the extent of asymptomatic community transmission. We ask for your support in this area by following any advice you receive from Public Health or the Trace and Protect team.

Finally, we acknowledge that the weeks ahead will probably present a number of challenges for everyone. Like you, we are hopeful that if we are careful and continue to take every step to limit the spread of the virus, we will be able to take further steps towards a full return to in-school learning before too long. In the meantime, if your child is scheduled to begin the return to in-school learning from next week, you will shortly receive further specific arrangements from your child's Headteacher.

Should you have any questions about the phased return to in-school learning, please contact your child's Headteacher.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we work through this together.

Yours sincerely

Gillian Brydson

Director, Education and Learning

Additional Support

Please note the following links which provide further support and advice for parents:

Parent Club Website - Coronavirus advice

Parentzone Scotland Website

National Parent Forum of Scotland - Blended learning in nutshell

National Parent Forum of Scotland - Learning at home in lockdown

Young Scot - Going to School During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic