Coronavirus: Schools, children and families
Perth & Kinross Council, in planning and preparation for the re-opening of schools and ELC settings in August, has been following key national guidance issued by the Scottish Government to help ensure a safe and effective return to school for children, young people and staff:
- Excellence and equity during the Covid-19 pandemic - A strategic framework for reopening schools, early learning and childcare provision in Scotland (21 May)
- Scientific evidence on schools and ELC settings (26 May) the basis for the Scottish Government's decisions about reopening schools
- COVID-19: reopening schools guidance (28 May) non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools in their planning for a safe phased reopening on 11 August
- COVID-19: Physical distancing in education and childcare settings was published on 15 May
- COVID-19: Support for continuity in learning (5 June), guidance by the Education Recovery Group for local authorities, early learning centres and schools. It is also relevant to partners e.g. community learning and development (CLD), youth workers, colleges, universities and adult learning. This focuses on the support required for learners, parents, carers and practitioners
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: guidance on re-opening school age childcare services published on 3 July
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: guidance on re-opening early learning and childcare services published on 15 June
Children in Perth and Kinross will start returning to school on 12 August with full-time re-opening scheduled for 17 August.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced on 23 June the aim is for schools to re-open full time in August.
Our schools will re-open on 10 August for two days of in-service training, as agreed with the Joint Negotiating Committee for Teaching Staff (JNCT).
Pupils will then start returning to school in phases from 12 August. This will allow specific year groups to have focused time for induction and reorientation.
Each school will decide what pupils will attend during the first week, and when. Parents, carers and pupils will be informed of these arrangements before the end of the current term
All pupils who are able to return to school full-time will do so from Monday, 17 August.
Sheena Devlin, Perth & Kinross Council's Executive Director of Education and Children's Services said: "We are looking forward to start welcoming pupils back from 12 August and aim to have all pupils back in school full-time on 17 August.
"Our schools will be in touch with parents, pupils and carers over the next few days to confirm arrangements.
"Our teachers and other school staff are committed to delivering the best education possible for children and young people when they return to school."
These plans will only change if the Scottish Government decides at the end of July if an upsurge in Coronavirus cases means a full-time return to school is not possible.
We will follow all Public Health measures and Scottish Government guidance to ensure the safety of our pupils and staff when they return in August.
However, if schools are unable to open fully due Covid-19 infection rates rising, then contingency plans are in place that will allow schools to re-open in a more limited capacity where pupils are given a blend of classroom and home learning.
Under these circumstances, in order to ensure that our children, young people and staff are safe, there will be some significant changes to how children will attend school and how schools will operate.
Not all schools will have the same approach. This is because we are required to operate within the Public Health measures that may be in place (including physical distancing), and balance this with our building capacities and pupil numbers. This means that only a certain number of children will be able to attend at any one time, and this will vary for each school.
All decisions on how schools would open under these circumstances are being guided by key principles, identified by Scottish Government, that are values-led and place our children and young people at the heart of considerations:
Remote Learning Hub
The Council's Education and Children's Services has established a Remote Learning Hub. The site has been created for parents, pupils and staff to access key information and guidance whilst working and learning from home during school closures. Specific sections have been created to allow for ease of use and to ensure you can access the information that is most appropriate for you. The Remote Learning Hub will be updated regularly with the latest information and added to ensure the content and messages are current. We hope parents, pupils and staff will find the site, and the information it provides, to be useful.
Children's Activity Centres
Perth & Kinross Council is providing childcare for the children of key workers at Children's Activity Centres and through partner providers and childminders.
These look after the children of key workers who have no other means of childcare.
Workers involved in the response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can submit applications for places at Children's Activity Centres.
People in or retasked to the following roles can now apply:
- NHS staff
- Health and Social Care staff
- GPs and associated staff
- Perth & Kinross Council and partner organisations staff providing Children's Activity Centre function
- Energy providers - eligible staff will have been given a letter identifying them as key workers
- Social work staff
- Police Scotland staff
- Scottish Fire and Rescue staff
- Scottish Ambulance Service staff
- Scottish Prison Service staff
- Burial and cremations staff
- Military staff involved in COVID-19 work
- Pharmacy staff
- Refuse collection staff
Additionally, staff supporting the following sectors are also considered key workers:
- Agriculture and related supply chain/haulage
- Supply chain/logistics and distribution companies for food and drink businesses.
- Postal/courier/delivery workers
- Third sector organisations directly supporting social work/social care activities
- Companies supporting national infrastructure relevant to COVID-19 response and recovery (includes infrastructure supporting supply chains such as ports)
In line with national guidance, we would still prefer children to stay at home wherever possible. Therefore It should be noted that CAC places will not be allocated if one or both parents are able to work from home or are employed in a sector not included in the Perth and Kinross criteria.
Sheena Devlin, Executive Director of Education and Children's Services with Perth & Kinross Council, said: "In line with national guidance, we would prefer children to stay at home wherever possible.
"But we will provide care, at one of Children's Activity Centres or through Partner Providers, for key workers where necessary.
"Expanding the range of eligible workers will mean an increasing number of children being looked after, however we will maintain arrangements where they are looked after in small groups in order to minimise the spread of Coronavirus."
Children's Activity Centres are currently located at North Inch Campus, Tulloch Primary School, Kinross Primary School, Community School of Auchterarder, Newhill Campus, Blairgowrie, Invergowrie Primary School and at Breadalbane Community Campus in Aberfeldy.
We will be keeping our response to the needs for childcare under continual review to ensure that there is sufficient supply.
A number of Partner Provider Nurseries and registered childminders have been providing spaces for children and will continue to do so over the coming weeks.
Only those children who have been offered places can attend.
Perth & Kinross Council will continue to provide critical childcare during the summer holidays. This will be provided through childminders, partner providers and Summer Activity Clubs. Surveys have been carried out to determine childcare requirements over the summer and the provision of childcare, and hours on offer, at each setting will reflect parental demand.
All critical childcare will pause on 4 August for one week to allow staff to take annual leave and for necessary cleaning and infection control to take place before schools and ELC re-open for the new term.
Some partner providers may continue to remain open but will charge a fee for childcare during this time.
Scottish Government advice remains that children, including those of key workers, should be looked after at home whenever possible. This means parents can use a non-vulnerable carer from another household, such as a relative or babysitter, for childcare. Should schools and ELC not be able to return fully in August then the following plans will be implemented.
Further guidance on out-of-school care will be issued before the end of June. As soon as this become available we will begin planning for the reopening of breakfast clubs and out-of-school care, subject to health protection guidance.
More information for parents is available on our website and Parent Club Scotland also has its own Frequently Asked Questions section.
How to apply
Applications can be made by completing our online application form.
Parents and carers who completed the key worker survey and think they meet the criteria for place at one of the Children's Activity Centres should contact their line manager for confirmation of their key worker status.
National guidance recommends that employers should work with unions and staff to identify those workers who are vital to the Coronavirus response and for the delivery of essential and safe services; consider introducing new shift patterns, home working, recruiting more staff or dropping non-essential tasks to reduce demand for places at Children's Activity Centres.
Employers should also speak to staff to see if they have access to any other appropriate childcare. This may include another parent or carer who is not a key worker.
Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Provision
ELC providers, whether council-run or private, will be able to re-open, subject to public health measures, during phase 3 of the Scottish Government's route map out of lockdown. They will prioritise key worker childcare, ELC entitlement and children in need.
As recovery progresses, the use of dedicated critical childcare for all provision may reduce so children will be able to access ELC and childcare in their usual environment. If providers choose to re-open to provide critical childcare, unless there is an explicit agreement with the local authority, then they should agree fee arrangements privately with parents.
Perth & Kinross Council is working closely with all funded providers of ELC provision as they progress towards re-opening. Many intend to re-open in July.
All children accessing local authority early learning and childcare can access 600 hours or more of ELC provision in most settings. In parallel with the school recovery all ELC settings have created a revised attendance for ELC.
As part of the Scottish Government Guidance released on 15 June, children are not able to attend more than one setting so if this had been your intention for childcare, this is no longer possible. It would be helpful to know if you still plan to take up the offer with us or go to the other provider where they may be able to offer a full-time placement. As some school ELC settings may be currently offering a reduced attendance pattern, you may wish to delay your attendance with us and approach a partner provider who may be able to offer a full-time place.
We understand from an announcement made on 24 June that ELC settings can re-open from 15 July. However, we also understand that guidance released on 15 June for reopening ELC still stands as described above.
On 15 June 2020 the Scottish Government published non-statutory guidance for early learning and childcare (ELC) providers in the private and third sectors to support a safe reopening of these settings during Phase 3 on 15 July 2020.
Under the principles of this guidance Early Learning and Childcare settings can reopen as of that date, please note that Local Authority nursery settings reopening will coincide with school term time, 12 August 2020 return. Perth & Kinross Council is working with our partner nurseries and childminders to support them opening from 15 July onwards, support has been provided through regular contact and guidance.
School meal provision
Since the closure of schools on Friday 20 March 2020 due to COVID-19, Perth and Kinross Council has made direct payments to families who are entitled to free school meals in receipt of qualifying benefits and those who receive free school meals as universal provision for P1-P3 pupils.
There was no requirement to make direct payments to universal provision P1-P3 pupils whose families were not in receipt of qualifying benefits, and many Councils did not do so.
Direct payments have been made fortnightly since 23 March 2020 for the period that schools remain closed.
Direct payment for free school meals for P1-P3 children whose parents are not in receipt of qualifying benefits will stop after 30 June 2020 which is the last date that a free school meal would have been provided in school if schools were open.
Direct payments for free school meals during the summer holiday period will only continue for those families entitled to free school meals who are in receipt of a qualifying benefit set out below:
- Income Support (IS)
- Income based Job Seeker's Allowance (IBJSA)
- Any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit, and your income is less than £16,105.
- Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Working Tax Credit (WTC) and your income is less than £6,900
- If you are between 16 and 18 years old and receive any of these benefits in your own right, you can claim free school meals for yourself.
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Universal Credit where the monthly earned income does not exceed £610
If your circumstances have changed since you applied for the free school meals direct payment and you are now in receipt of a qualifying benefit, please contact ECSSchools@pkc.gov.uk
The universal provision for free school meals for P1-P3 pupils will resume when schools reopen in August.
In light of current school closures, any prepaid school meal funds will remain in pupil accounts until schools reopen.
Alternatively parents/carers can request a refund of any prepaid school meals funds by emailing SchoolMealRefunds@pkc.gov.uk stating each pupil's name, class and school.
The Scottish Parliament passed The Education (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which came into force from 23 April 2020. These Regulations make amendments to the legislation relating to placing requests and the procedures for appeals and the Scottish Government has published guidance on these amendments. The changes made by these Regulations are necessary as a result of coronavirus.
The Regulations amend the time limits relating to decisions on placing requests and also amend time limits relating to the hearing of appeals. The deadline to notify parents of decisions about placing requests for the coming school year in August has been extended from 30 April 2020 to 31 May 2020. The time limit for hearing any appeals submitted has been extended from 28 days to 3 months.
We are working to ensure that all parents will receive a decision about their placing requests by 31 May 2020.
If you have queries about provision for your children, please view our Coronavirus: FAQs about schools or call 0345 30 111 00. This line will be open from 8.45am tomorrow.