What is blended learning?
The Scottish Government has issued a directive and guidance to local authorities in relation to the reopening of schools.
The guidance confirms that planning for the reopening of schools should include blended learning. This means that children will have some time in-school as well as home learning.
Home learning has been provided by all schools since they closed on 20 March. All schools are evaluating the provision taking account of the views of parents, staff and pupils. If you have any concerns or have not been contacted by your child’s school, please contact the head teacher directly.
What is the Council doing to plan for the reopening of schools?
Head teachers are working to assess the capacity of their school taking account of the requirements for physical distancing in all learning spaces. This is currently 2m as the default measure when assessing learning spaces. This will inform the possible delivery model for the school, i.e. how many children can be safely accommodated within the school at any one time. We want to maximise the time that children are in school taking account of the requirements for physical distancing. Head teachers are being supported by advice from officers across the Council, including Education, Health and Safety and Assets and Facilities Management.
It is also important that plans are flexible as the situation with Covid-19 can and will change. Therefore, planning for time in-school has to be able to be increased and possibly decreased if required.
The assessment of capacity in each school is very complex, particularly as most schools in East Dunbartonshire have high occupancy levels. The accommodation needs to provide high quality learning and teaching in a positive nurturing environment. We also need to ensure that we have sufficient staffing to ensure appropriate supervision and high quality learning and teaching. Finally, other measures need to be implemented to minimise the risk of infection and transmission; this includes physical distancing and hand sanitising measures.
In primary schools, we will be organising children into small, consistent groups. Younger children, especially those in the early stages, find physical distancing difficult and at all stages of the primary school, children will work co-operatively in groups. Measures will be in place to support physical distancing but small, consistent groups will mitigate the risk of infection and transmission. Steps will be taken to increase separation in all areas of the school and time for outdoor learning will be planned for all classes. Head teachers are working to ensure that family groups attend on the same day.
In secondary schools, it is more complex and work is underway to assess the capacity of each school to ensure physical distancing in all areas, as it is not possible to create small, consistent groups of children within a secondary school. A timetable will then be put in place for children’s attendance in-school.
Most of our secondary schools have very high occupancy and the organisation of a secondary school is through the school timetable. New timetables are being prepared to accommodate the delivery model for each school and information will then be provided to parents and pupils once it is finalised and available.
We are also working to ensure that we have adequate staffing both teaching and support staff. Some staff may not be able to be in-school and work is on-going to recruit additional teaching and support staff.
When will I know what days my child will be in-school when schools reopen?
We will issue information to parents on Monday 22 June. This will provide parents with the information as it stands on that date. While we understand that parents want to know the arrangements for their child in August, plans may need to be altered, depending on the latest Covid-19 situation and any change in the guidance from Scottish Government. We will keep parents informed throughout the summer if there are any changes to the guidance and to our delivery models. This will be done through the schools’ Group Call system and social media.
What date will children return to school?
Scottish Government have issued a directive to local authorities that the reopening of schools is dependent on the scientific and medical advice and evidence of transmission of Covid-19 being controlled. They have indicated that the start date is planned to be 11 August, with pupils returning on 12 August. We are currently consulting with the trade unions to adjust the Council’s School Calendar. Once the Educational Continuity Direction is received from Scottish Government, we will be able to confirm the start date with parents.
What measures will be in place to minimise the risk of infection and transmission?
A risk assessment will be in place in each school. The Council’s Health and Safety Team has provided comprehensive guidance. Head Teachers are working to review this in their school taking account of the layout and changes to the organisation of the school that will be required.
Full information will be provided for parents and children in a Back to School Pack. This will include information on the specific arrangements for each school as well as the arrangements in place across all schools. There will also be an awareness raising campaign for staff, parents and pupils.
There will be clear and consistent signage throughout all our schools to remind staff and pupils of the requirements and instructions on the specific measures in place in each school building in relation to capacity in rooms, any one-way systems in place and in relation to social distancing and hygiene.
What support will there be for home learning?
All schools have provided home learning activities throughout the lockdown period. However, we know that this has been difficult for parents, many of whom have also been working from home during this time. Schools are evaluating the current provision, taking account of the views of parents and this will inform arrangements for the new session.
If you have any concerns in relation to the home learning elements of our blended model, you should raise these with your head teacher.
We are aware that access to technology and internet access is a barrier for some children and families. Arrangements are in place to provide IT equipment and internet access to those children who require it.
What support is there for children who may find transitions difficult?
We are aware that for many children transitions may be difficult. This is particularly the case for children with additional support needs and those at key points of transition; those moving into Primary 1 and those moving from primary to secondary. Transition planning usually includes visits take place throughout the school year; for example, transition to secondary often begins in Primary 6 and throughout Primary 7. We have had to adapt the arrangements in the final term to take account of the closure of schools.
Many schools have provided online activities and communications including videos to support children and parents. Head teachers have also put arrangements in place for children, who require additional support and those who have particular circumstances. For some children, school visits have been arranged from week beginning 15 June. The Education Continuity Direction from Scottish Government was received on 10 June to allow school visits to take place.
If parents have any concerns about their child, they should contact the head teacher of their child’s school. Arrangements can be made to support transitions over the summer.
How will parents be consulted on the new arrangements?
As part of the recovery planning, we have consulted with the Parent Council Forum Steering Group. Head teachers have consulted with their Parent Council and the wider parent forum as part of the preparation of the School Recovery Plan. This includes home learning provision, family engagement including reporting to parents and the provision of health and well-being.
It is not possible to consult with parents on the delivery model within each school as that is dependent on the accommodation and staffing within the school, taking into account the health and safety measures and all Government and NHS public health guidance.
We will continue to consult with parents through the Parent Council Forum and within schools on an ongoing basis.
What will be the provision of childcare for the children of keyworkers after the summer?
We are currently working on our planning for the provision of additional childcare for the children of key workers. This will be different from during lockdown as our school buildings and Education staff will be fully utilised delivering education both in-school and for home learning. We are working to assess other accommodation that we may have available as well as how this provision can be delivered. We would ask parents to consider all options before applying for a childcare place after the summer holidays. There will be a new application process and we will allocate places using clear criteria. We will provide more information once the plans are formulated.