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Education / Suspension of face to face parents’ evenings to be lifted next week

Photo: Shetland News

PARENTS’ evenings will be allowed to be held face to face again from next week onwards after being off limits since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Shetland Islands Council’s children’s services director Helen Budge, however, said the local authority will take a “careful, fully risk assessed and proportionate” approach to people entering schools.

Events like parents’ evenings have not been held in person in Shetland since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Instead schools have held virtual parents’ evenings, which Budge said had attracted good feedback.

But under relaxed Covid guidance from the Scottish Government, restrictions on in-person events will be lifted at the start of the new school term (Tuesday).

From term four it will also be possible for parents and carers to attend sporting and cultural events in schools and nurseries, and other activities like fundraising and information evenings.

In light of the continued prevalence of Covid in Shetland, though, the council is looking to play it safe when it comes to resuming events with parents and carers.

In a letter to parents and carers ahead of the new term, children’s services director Helen Budge wrote: “I appreciate how challenging the last two years have been for parents and carers with very limited opportunities to visit their children’s school or early learning and childcare setting in person and meet with staff.

“School and early learning and childcare settings have attempted to engage with parents and carers in different ways, including online parents’ evenings and information evenings.”

She said in light of continued Covid cases in Shetland “we are taking a careful, well planned, fully risk assessed and proportionate approach to parents, carers and wider family members entering school and early learning and childcare buildings”.

“Your setting will keep in touch with you about any parents’ evenings and other events and activities and events, involving parents and carers that are planned for the term ahead,” Budge continued.

The director added that “some schools will continue possibly [with online parents’ evenings] but we recognise that it was a kind of interim”.

Budge said no in-person parents’ evenings are yet in the schedule in Shetland schools.

Although the legal requirement for face coverings is ending in Scotland from Monday, secondary aged pupils are encouraged to bring a mask to school for use in indoor communal areas and when moving around buildings.

Budge said children and young people, as well as staff, who choose to wear a face covering in school should be supported.

“Face coverings should also continue to be worn by parents and carers and other visitors to the school site (whether entering the building or otherwise), including parents at drop-off and pick-up points,” she added.

A number of Covid mitigation measures will continue as term four begins, including the use of hand sanitisers throughout the school day, enhanced cleaning and CO2 monitoring.

From Monday school and early learning staff with no Covid symptoms, as well as secondary pupils, will no longer be advised to regularly use lateral flow tests.

This also applies to the general public, although there are some exceptions, like health and social care workers and hospital visitors.

At the end of April people will no longer be advised to take tests if they have symptoms – instead they will be advised to stay home until they feel better, with the formal self-isolation requirements coming to an end.

Schools will no longer issue low risk contact letters to their parents and carers from the start of term four if there are Covid-19 cases affecting classes or year groups.

“However, please be reassured that children’s services will continue to liaise closely with head teachers and public health in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak situation in any of our settings,” Budge wrote.

Reflecting on how the last term went, Budge told Shetland News there were a high number of staff and pupil absences.

She also took time to praise staff in children’s services, who have had to deal with ever-changing guidance over the last two years.

Budge noted that in one instance some central staff were working on New Year’s Eve.