There will be three groups of pupils still attending schools in the Western Isles from Monday (March 23).

Following the national school closure, the Scottish Government has set criteria for pupils who can continue to attend in schools.

The expectation is that the absolute minimum of pupils attend at school and the presumption is for non-attendance unless the following criteria are met.

Those who may attend are the children of key workers where there is no alternative childcare available to them. This includes key staff working in NHS, social care, emergency services, school & education and any workers in energy, transport and infrastructure roles whose work is critical to maintaining services during the crisis.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is working with health and social care and emergency planning colleagues to identify eligible staff and provision will be made for identified staff only.

To allow time to do this, they are asking that, from Monday, parents self-identify at schools if they consider themselves to be eligible for this provision.

If you are not on a list already identified by your employer as a critical employee, you will need to contact your employer or line manager to ask them to contact the Education & Children’s Services Department.

Where it has been identified by Comhairle officers that a child is considered to be vulnerable, based on the advice from Scottish Government, that child will be able to attend school.

Comhairle staff have been in contact with those who are eligible and, if you have not had contact from us, you should not attend.  If you feel that you are eligible but have not been contacted, please contact the Education, Skills & Children’s Services Department on Monday.

And S4-6 pupils have the option to attend to complete outstanding coursework, if they need to do so. Any such arrangements have been discussed and intimated to pupils before they left school today

On Friday 20th March at 2.00pm, Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff broadcast a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community. A recording of the broadcast is available through this link http://e-sgoil.com/cnes-covid-update

The Scottish Government has published guidance that sets out what childcare provision they expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance also sets out the Key Workers that qualify for critical childcare provision. Local Authorities have been told that, if one parent is a key worker and the other is not, the non-key worker should normally be expected to provide childcare. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. This link takes you to the full guidance https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus—school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/

Following the announcement from the First Minister that the exam diet of 2020 cannot go ahead Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, has been asked to develop an alternative certification model. Deputy First Minister has asked schools and colleges to continue to work with young people to ensure that any units and coursework are completed and estimated grades are provided by teachers, drawing on the available evidence gathered throughout the year, to SQA’s existing deadlines, or earlier if that is possible.

Many learners, will also have prior attainment information which will be helpful. The statement from the SQA Chief Executive is available through this link https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/93598.html