COVID Workforce Issues Update Feb 2021

COVID Workforce Issues Update Schools New

Schools Reopening Guidance

The Scottish Government guidance for the phased re-opening of schools, as announced by the First Minister on Tuesday 16 Feb, has now been published and can be found here:


1. The supplementary guidance on the phased reopening of schools has been delayed and we now anticipate that being published on Today morning. 

2. The technical guidance for schools was published on Friday afternoon and can be found here:

3. Coronavirus (COVID19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues – advice on mitigations to minimise transmission during phased return to in-person learning. 

In support of the advice which was published on 3 February, the advisory sub-group has considered its existing advice on the mitigations required to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for staff and pupils, and has identified some key areas where the advice should be strengthened. Where no amendment has been made, the existing advice still stands. 

This advice is subject to continued reductions in prevalence and community transmission of the virus, no significant changes in the evidence, and reassurance that appropriate infection prevention and control mitigations are in place both within schools and ELC settings, and in the wider community.   

Link to the full guidance is below but the key messages are: 

  • while vaccination is being rolled out, non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, face coverings and zero-tolerance to symptoms are the main public health tool against COVID-19. It is important, therefore, to focus on how to encourage and support widespread compliance with these interventions, including clear, unambiguous guidance on the required behaviour. 
  • a combination of physical distancing approaches that prevent crowding (e.g. classroom distancing, staggered start times), especially in older age groups, along with hygiene and safety measures (e.g. handwashing, cleaning, ventilation) have a role in limiting the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in educational settings. Measures should be adapted to the age group and the setting. It has not been possible, thus far, to assess the effectiveness of individual measures
  • there are already a number of mitigations in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools and ELC settings in Scotland, and these all continue to apply to the new variant (B.1.1.7). Advice from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published in January 2021, on Mitigations to Reduce Transmission of the New Variant SARS-CoV-2 Virus, concluded that a step change in the rigour of application of mitigations is required, given the increased transmission risk associated with the new variant. 
  • schools and ELC settings should therefore place very high priority on reinforcing the mitigations designed to reduce the risk for staff and pupils as set out in the existing guidance on reducing the risks from COVID-19 in schools and any supplementary guidance associated with the phased reopening of schools; and the equivalent guidance on ELC settings, Childminding settings and School-Aged Childcare. Risk communication, community engagement and ongoing learning about implementation good practice, are crucial components of an effective response. 
  • Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local authorities should provide appropriate support to schools and ELC settings to enable them to implement the mitigations fully, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, children and young people, taking into account local circumstances and the practical constraints faced by different schools in terms of issues such as building design.   
  • as an additional protective measure, 2 metre distancing should be put in place at the current time for secondary-aged pupils, in addition to continuing to be in place for staff in secondary schools 
  • physical distancing requirements in primary schools remain unchanged: 2 metre distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained. There should also be 2 metre distancing between adults and primary aged children whenever possible.  
  • in line with the strengthened advice on 2 metre physical distancing in secondary schools, it will be also be necessary to ensure 2 metre distancing on school transport for secondary schools, recognising that this may not be possible in the case of school taxis or planes. 
  • it was noted that local authorities and schools, as they begin to return on a phased basis, will start routinely to offer at-home testing using lateral flow devices to:  all primary, secondary and special school staff in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all ELC and childcare staff based in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools; all senior phase pupils in local authority, independent and grant-aided secondary and special schools. This offer will be extended to regulated day care of children services which are non-school based, in the weeks following the start of the programme.—advice-on-mitigations-to-minimise-transmission-of-covid-19-during-phased-return-to-in-person-learning/

1. We received a presentation from Public Health Scotland on the data around transmission amongst young people and between young people and adults in the context of schools re-opening.  You can read more on this here: 

2. There is more info on the risks related to the spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in the EU/EEA here (with specific ref to school settings on p14): 

LG Finance 

A few articles on this:

COVID Workforce Issues Update

LG Finance 

Whilst the individual local authority allocations arising from the draft budget will not be published until Monday it is clear that yesterday’s announcement fell well short of delivering the investment local government needs to protect jobs and services going forward.   

Behind the spin the budget allocation for local government for 21-22, compared to the 20-21 allocation, indicates an uplift in the total budget allocation to local government of just £91m – that’s some way short of the £1.5bn ask made by COSLA. 

As you know the Scottish Public Sector Pay policy may ‘act as a benchmark’ for all major public sector workforce groups but the technical guidance clearly states that local government pay is delegated to local authorities and its clear that the Scottish Government has not budgeted for or fully funded a proper pay rise for local authority workers.  We will have to wait to see what COSLA’s response to this is. 

At any rate our #PlugTheGap campaign must ramp up in the coming weeks to try to influence the inter-party discussions that will now be taking place before the final budget is presented to Parliament. 

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 document is available online. 

WIG update 

We have raised with COSLA a concern that day-care staff, many of whom are having to deliver services at home because of Covid restrictions, are being told they now need to register with the SSSC and incur the cost of doing so.  We have raised concern that this requirement has only come about because these members’ roles and the services they deliver have changed as a result of Covid – their substantive roles do not require SSSC registration and so the employer should meet this cost.  COSLA are looking into this and we understand that SPDS are in discussion with the SSSC about it.  We will update you as soon as we get a response. 

Replacement shielding letters – after being bounced around various government departments it transpires that there is no actual process for individuals to request another copy of their shielding letter.  There is no ‘process’ as such, however if anyone has an issue in relation to this please contact the branch.

We raised concern about the safety risk associated with holding in-person voting for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May. We have put out a separate mail on this but in case you missed it our press release is here

We highlighted the targeting of home and social care workers by organised anti-vaccination campaigners.  (Note this is about organised groups promoting misinformation rather than individuals expressing genuine worries or concerns)  The Scottish Government representatives present said they are very concerned about this.  They underlined the importance of signposting people to factual and credible messaging.

We have sent on the key links to various Public Health Scotland (PHS) resources earlier in the week.  There is some further information below: 

  • PHS are members of the WHO Vaccine Safety Network, which is about addressing misinformation about vaccine online.  
  • NHS Inform is a WHO accredited website for vaccine information and the main source PHS push out to the public for up to date and accurate information. The content there is developed and signed off by clinical experts, including the CMO office.  
  • Referring members to a highly credible and NHS badged source is critical part of addressing misinformation. This can be done via your own social media channels, emails to members. Here is some sample vaccine information / leaflets in our toolkit for social care
  • PHS are keen for us to share with you the stakeholder and partner toolkit for the Roll up your Sleeves campaign, also attached. 

Supporting children and young people with complex additional support needs 
The Government has published specific guidance for local authorities and schools to support children and young people with complex additional support needs in mainstream schools, units and special schools during the coronavirus pandemic.    

This guidance supplements the existing Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance  and the Coronavirus (COVID 19): schools reopening arrangements .  It has been developed in partnership with the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group.   

It seeks to highlight specific issues, safety measures and mitigations to support the management of risk towards ensuring a safe environment for the learning and teaching of children with complex additional support needs in mainstream schools, units and special schools during the coronavirus pandemic.  

You can access this guidance here

Early Learning and Childcare guidance 
The Early Learning and Childcare guidance has been updated and can be accessed here 

Library guidance – updated 
The Covid guidance for Libraries has been updated and can be accessed here

Testing for care home visitors gets underway

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for designated visitors of care home residents has started this week with a trial across five local authority areas.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for designated visitors of care home residents has started this week with a trial across five local authority areas.

Lateral flow testing of designated visitors is being trialled in 14 early adopter care homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde, and Aberdeenshire.

Testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes from Monday 14 December, as announced by the First Minister on Wednesday, once guidance and training materials have been finalised following the trial.

For any care homes unable to make use of lateral flow tests before Christmas, PCR testing of visitors will be available when necessary to facilitate visiting over the festive period.

Guidance, tools and resources on visiting, and supporting residents in care homes during COVID-19 (incl over the festive season)

Guidance on how care home visiting may be gradually increased while minimising risks to residents, staff and visitors has been issued. The guidance recommends care homes take a staged approach to resuming visiting. In addition, the guidance sets out actions to mitigate risks to residents, visitors and staff.  

For all care homes, regardless of Covid status, essential visits are to be supported where possible to do so safely, without a defined time limit.