Monthly Archives: March 2020

Highland Council to launch e-vouchers for free school meals

Highland Council to launch e-vouchers for free school meals

 

Highland Council will be providing e-vouchers to families to support access to free school meals from week commencing 30 March 2020.

This innovative and easy-to-use service will ensure over 4,000 school children will continue to receive support for school meals while schools are closed. For the majority of pupils, this will be delivered digitally through e-vouchers for food in local supermarkets.

Enabling choice will provide flexibility and also help to reduce waste, as food can be purchased according to need or preference in the household. Some restrictions do apply as the e-vouchers cannot be used to purchase age restricted products such as tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and fuel.

The impact of Coronavirus has caused many vulnerable families additional hardship and this process will ensure that the most vulnerable children can get food.

Highland Council continues to investigate other ways of providing food across the Highlands for vulnerable groups within the rapidly changing environment. This includes working closely with High Life Highland, Eden Court and our many partners including the Third Sector. Further information will be provided in due course.

Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Education Committee, said: “The provision of school meals is a priority service that we are committed to delivering including during when schools are closed in the current times. I applaud the Highland Council staff who are working hard to implement this service as quickly as possible and for e-vouchers to be issued next week”.

A helpline number has been set up for anyone who is struggling and needing urgent help during this crisis. The single line number – 0300 303 1362 – will connect callers to relevant Council specialist teams and will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm. All calls are free.

Council responds to Government lockdown

Free school meals cancelled for today. Please see press release below.

UK and Scottish Government’s decision begins a three-week lockdown in order to delay the spread of the Coronavirus,

In light of the UK and Scottish Government’s decision tonight to begin a three-week lockdown in order to delay the spread of the Coronavirus, the Highland Council has taken the decision to cancel the provision of school meals tomorrow. The current format of provision would involve staff and children gathering at school premises and this would go against national advice and directives.

The Council’s Strategic Group will consider the announcement first thing tomorrow morning and the implications this will have for the delivery of essential services and the provision of welfare and humanitarian aid in a way that complies with the Government’s directive and protects life and our NHS services.

More information will be issued once this important step has been discussed with our Local and Regional Resilience Partners.

Free School Meals Provision for Next Week.

For the week beginning Monday 23rd March, a takeaway ‘Grab & Go’ option will be available for all young people who are entitled to a free school meal.

This includes all P1- P3 pupils and all other pupils from P4 and above who are already entitled to this.

Meals will be available from 11 am to 2 pm  from Inverness High School.  A member of  The Central Team will be at Inverness High School to help with lunches.

Further clarification regarding key worker children will follow from the Highland Council as soon as it is available.

MESSAGE FROM CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE HIGHLAND COUNCIL

Dear Parent / Carer

Together, we face the most challenging times ahead. The clear and consistent advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland is that being at home and reducing social contact will be key to reducing the spread of the Coronavirus in the Highlands. We must help each other to protect our most vulnerable citizens and support our key staff in delivering essential services to our communities with an increased need for health, care and welfare services. In the information that follows I ask for your understanding that the health and wellbeing of your children, your family and your communities are the key priority.

Please read this letter carefully to ensure that you have all the relevant information regarding: –

  • School closures
  • S4-S6 Senior Phase
  • Advice and Helplines
  • Key Workers
  • Free School Meals

School Closures – Highland – Coronavirus (Covid-19)

As you are aware, it is expected that the spread of the Coronavirus will accelerate significantly over the next few weeks, with the likelihood of ongoing disruption to services including schools.

In response to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak, The Scottish Government following consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and other experts have taken the decision to advise that all schools and local authority early learning and childcare settings should close to children and young people with effect from 1700 on Friday 20th March 2020, with the exception of any critical provision to protect the following key interests and groups:

Key workers: to ensure that children of key workers, for example NHS and social care staff, have continuing access to appropriate learning and childcare, potentially beyond the normal school day, that allows their parents/carers to participate in the national response to Covid-19. A definition of key workers is at the end of this letter.

Education continuity: to ensure S4-S6 pupils can complete course work for national qualifications.

 Vulnerable children: to maintain protections and support for children who may be particularly vulnerable in the current circumstances, particularly in respect of free school meals, children with additional support needs and at-risk children.

This step has been taken to help protect the safety and wellbeing of our children and staff. It has not yet been decided when schools will reopen, though the First Minister has mentioned that we should not expect schools to reopen after the Easter break, and that they may not reopen before the summer.

Schools therefore close today Friday 20 March 2020 and will remain closed to routine education and learning until further notice. This will include local authority nurseries, schools, as well as breakfast and after school clubs in our buildings. The Highland Council will continue to communicate with our communities in a variety of ways while the schools are closed. Meanwhile, parents should make arrangements for the care of their children during this period, as the advice is that the safest place for children and young people to be is at home.

For any pupils who need to pick up digital devices (or essential medication) after today please arrange to come in to school on Monday 23 March to collect them. Should any families be unable to do this (for example because the entire family is self-isolating) please oversee an alternative means of getting the item to the family concerned. For example, another family could collect the device and pass it on (taking care to avoid social contact with the self-isolating family).

It is very important that while the schools are closed, our children and young people don’t miss out on learning. While children and young people are well enough to take part in learning activities, they are expected to make use of the arrangements put in place by school staff. Teachers have been working hard to gather together resources and Highland Council officers have produced a large bank of online resources that teachers and parent/carers can also use to support learning (https://www.highland.gov.uk/digitalschoolshub).

Pupils will be supported by a variety of digital learning and skills resources to support their learning. In Highland, all P6-S6 children have a Chromebook they can use to access the resources their teachers are using with them. For younger children, we would ask parents, wherever possible, to support access to either a sibling’s Chromebook or a personal family device. Younger pupils will need to be supported by a family member to access a Google Classroom or Google Hangout (video conferencing). Your children’s teachers will provide much more information about this.

Each school has been working hard to identify what the school day will look like, but there is an expectation that pupils will continue to engage in learning opportunities. This will include registering online every day so that teachers know that pupils are taking part and are safe.

Support, resources and advice about online learning is available for staff, pupils and parents at: http://www.Highland.gov.uk/digitalschoolshub. Further information will follow. If you do not have access to technology or wi-fi, please email clinfoandsupport@highland.gov.uk

S4-S6 Senior Phase

Our older pupils will be thinking about their examinations. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has been working with the Scottish Government about the upcoming exam period. It was announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney that the 2020 exams will not take place. Qualifications will now be based on coursework, prior attainment and estimate grades. Pupils will be able to access support to complete any outstanding units or coursework on Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th March. Further information regarding this will come from your child’s school.

The Highland Council are developing plans to support any children and young people who are entitled to free school meals and you will find more information about this at the end of the letter.

This is clearly an unprecedented situation which continues to affect all of society. We must come to terms with the outlook that greater social isolation will be necessary in the weeks ahead. It is understandable that we will all face increasing anxiety and uncertainty and it is especially important that we all work together and support our children and young people in these difficult times.

Yours sincerely

Donna Manson

 

School Closure Update from The Highland Council

Dear Parents

Please see the message below from our Chief Executive this afternoon.

Our team at Central School have been preparing for next week and will forward information to you tomorrow via See Saw, email and school blog.

Thank you for your patience in awaiting this information.

Kind Regards

Mrs Fraser and The Central School Team

 

Thursday, 19 March 2020
Highland Schools will close at end of school day on Friday 20 March
As communicated by the First Minister yesterday, we can confirm that all schools in The Highland Council region will close at the end of the school day on Friday 20th March. Pupils should not return to school on Monday 23rd March.
The Chief Executive of The Highland Council, Donna Manson said:
“Having received a letter from the Scottish Government at 2:45pm today, immediate and extensive work will be required to make sure that we can assess the implications of the Government’s requirements in terms of the provision of learning and care for the children of key worker groups. It is hoped that these arrangements will be in place from Friday 27th March.
“Further information will be communicated as the Council engages with a range of partners to ensure that we support the Highland effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus and the work of the emergency services as set out in the Civil Contingencies Act.
“Another key piece of work will be the continued and adapted provision of food, care, support and protection to our vulnerable children.
“With regards to the week beginning Monday 23 March, I am confident that our education staff across the Highlands are in a position to provide families with an education package for all our children at home, during this first week of school closures in these exceptional circumstances.
“Schools have been in contact with parents and the Council has set up access to online resources via the educational improvement team at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/digitalschoolshub .”
“Any parent or carer enquiries should be directed to schools on Friday 20 March. From Monday 23 March Highland Council Education Helpline details will be communicated publicly in helping parents and carers with enquiries.
“Your support in these unprecedented times is greatly appreciated.”