Return to school plans announced for West Lothian

West Lothian Council has written to parents and carers advising them on the plans for school pupils returning.

Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 9:19 am
Picture: John Devlin. 20/03/2020.
Picture: John Devlin. 20/03/2020.

The council is planning for the start of the new term on August 11, 2020, in line with all other councils in Scotland. Tuesday, August 11, will be an In-Service Day when schools will be closed to pupils. This will replace the In-Service Day planned for Monday, August 17, which will not now take place.

A programme of Blended Learning will start for all pupils on Wednesday, August 12, with a mix of in-school and in-home learning.

The start date in August will not be the same for all children and each individual school will be in touch with parents and carers before the end of June to advise on the start date for individual children, and also what days they should attend.

Dr Elaine Cook, depute chief executive of West Lothian Council said: “We have written to all parents and carers via Groupcall to share information about the steps we are taking to ensure that pupils can return to school safely. We are planning to return to normal full-time attendance as soon as it is safe to do so, but we cannot set a date for this to happen at the moment.

“The biggest change is that fewer pupils will attend school at any one time, and because of this pupils will have a mix of learning at school and at home. This is called ‘blended learning’ and will be introduced across the whole of Scotland, in line with guidance from the Scottish Government.

“On the days that pupils do not attend school, they will be supplied with appropriate learning materials and instructions, which will complement in-school learning. Most children would benefit from support from family members to help them complete their in-home learning.

“We do understand how difficult it is for parents to support their children at home, and I would like to thank parents and carers for the understanding shown throughout this time.

“The Scottish Government is ensuring that employers are aware that the re-opening of schools in August will not mean that pupils will attend full-time, and are asking employers to be flexible with employees who need to stay at home with their children.”

In primary schools, pupils will be allocated two days of in-school learning each week. On the other two and a half days children will undertake learning at home. This pattern of attendance will allow physical distancing measures described to be implemented, and also allow enhanced cleaning within schools. Siblings who attend the same primary school will be allocated the same days of attendance.

Every secondary school is creating its own blended learning model. Each school will take account of the needs of pupils, and ensure the highest quality of learning and teaching. There will be common features in every secondary school. All pupils in S1 – S6 will receive blended learning, and all pupils will be in school for a minimum of two days per week (this may include Fridays).

Each secondary school will aim to have approximately 50 per cent of its school roll in the building at any one time, but this may vary depending on building and staffing capacity. Schools may make arrangements for individual pupils depending on specific circumstances – this will be communicated directly with parent/carers by each secondary school.

Dr Cook added: “We are expecting further national guidance of the specific arrangements for Early Learning and Childcare, and Additional Support Needs settings. We will inform parents/carers of our local arrangements for Early Learning and Childcare and the Additional Support Needs Schools and Units as soon as possible.

“I understand that many parents will have questions over safety. I can assure them that the safety of our pupils and staff is our number one priority. Changes are being made in all schools to allow learning to take place safely.

“These changes are being made to ensure that all pupils can stay a safe distance apart from each other and do not come into contact with too many people.

“They are designed to maximise the health and wellbeing of pupils, based on detailed risk assessments which are being conducted in all schools.

“All schools will stress safe hygiene practices, including regular handwashing. Classrooms will be re-organised so that pupils are a safe distance apart when seated at desks.

“Teaching will be in smaller groups and interaction between groups of pupils will be minimised as much as possible. Schools will maximise their use of outdoor space.

“Changes will be made to arrangements for breaks and dining. There will be changes to arrangements for dropping off and picking up children to prevent large groups of parents and children gathering.

“Some schools may plan for staggered start times.”

Individual schools will communicate changes that affect pupils and parents/carers prior to pupils returning to school.

Transition arrangements for P1 and S1 pupils will be communicated to parents/carers soon, as will guidance on Early Years (nursery) placements.