Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information


The Comhairle is in close regular contact with the NHS and the Scottish Government and implementing the advice given as quickly as possible. As you are aware this is a fast moving situation and advice is being updated regularly.
People are advised to take social distancing measures to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In particular, this is strongly advised for people aged 70 or over, people with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Up to date information can be accessed through the NHS Inform and Comhairle websites through the links below:
NHS Inform website
Common Questions

Recognising that parents, carers, learners, and of course their teachers and educators, are in need of support, practical ideas and opportunities in these challenging times, three national education providers in Scotland have come together to provide a varied and fast developing education offer.
Using the tried and tested e-Sgoil platform and delivered by experienced teachers and educators, a timetabled set of classes will be available from 4 May, gradually increasing over the weeks ahead. The lessons will be provided by Keep Scotland Beautiful, the national environmental agency, SCILT, the National Languages Centre, and e-Sgoil.
There will be live interactive teaching for learners as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. All of the lessons have been adapted over the last few weeks for a learning at home basis; some are existing and well known areas of the curriculum, and others are launching for the first time.
The offer will be gradually built up from Monday 4 May onwards and expanded over the weeks ahead. Details of how the classes can be accessed are available here

Covid-19 Community Support Services
Advocacy Western Isles have collated information on support services and this can be accessed through the following link
Covid-19 Community Support Services

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service provides music tuition, in a range of instruments, for pupils in every primary and secondary school throughout the island chain, from Lionel in the north right down to Castlebay in the south.
A blog has been created for the Instrumental Music Service and this contains full information and instructions on how to access and set up Glow, Teams and Vscene, contact details for all Instrumental Music service staff, and in time the blog will also contain other information & news from the music service.
Every primary school has tuition in Gaelic Singing and Piping, and other instruments are taught in primary and secondary schools – dependent on the resources available in each local area. In addition to this, tuition is delivered through the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) to enable the Comhairle to meet the Scottish Government commitment that every child in school will have received one year of music tuition by the time they leave primary school.
During the school closures the CnES Instrumental Music Service will continue to provide instrumental music tuition via video lessons using Vscene. Our Instrumental Music Teachers have set up class teams for their pupils in each school using Microsoft Teams, which is available through Glow. This will be the method of communication between staff & pupils and resources & lesson timetables will be posted on those platforms for the pupils to access. All pupils in our schools have a Glow username, email address and password and will be able to access Teams once logged into Glow. If your child is unsure of their Glow details they should contact their school in the first instance for help.
Rhona Johnstone, Musical Development Officer, said: “The Western Isles has a rich cultural heritage and a wealth of musical talent exists amongst those in our schools and living in our communities. Over the years the islands have produced a host of great musicians, many of whom have gone on to become well known household names.
“During the current period of lockdown we are keen to continue the work that normally takes place with the pupils in our schools. We hope that our pupils will progress with their music lessons during this time and continue to develop their musicals skills and experiences.
“With the creation of the blog we look forward to providing you with all the information you need to know about the service and share some of the fantastic work that our pupils achieve with the support of our Instrumental Music Teachers.”
Parents and pupils can find out more about the Instrumental Music Service and online music tuition by visiting:

Education Livestream 16/04/20
Please use the following link to access a recording of the Education Livestream from Thursday 16 April 2020.

Your Lockdown Library
The Comhairle Library Service has set up an online resource called Your Lockdown Library. It provides a wide range of resources and materials that can be used by staff and learners, including a home library e-book service, online book groups, online newspapers and activity resources.

My Mental Health Rocks – Scotland
My Mental Health Scotland is offering free access to virtual resources to support young people’s mental health. These resources and online materials can be accessed by staff parents and pupils and more information can be found on their website. They are also offering access to online workshops.

Coronavirus Covid-19) Briefing for Parents & Carers 27 March 2020
The following link takes you to a comprehensive briefing about the work being done to provide continuing education and support services.
Coronavirus – ESCS Service Briefing for Parents 27.03.2020

Comhairle Establishes Volunteer Registration
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has launched an Online Form and Contact Centre 01851 822899 to collect details of individuals and community groups throughout the Western Isles looking to provide volunteering support during Covid-19. Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, said: “The Contact Centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and enable the Comhairle to match volunteers against the needs of individuals and families in our communities.” Comhairle Convener, Norman A Macdonald, said: “The Comhairle would also urge anyone in need of help or support to contact our Customer Services team in the usual manner on 01851 600 501. “We are anticipating a high number of calls, therefore we would ask for your patience.”

Comhairle Protects Free School Meals and EMA
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has taken steps to ensure the continuation of free school meals and Education Maintenance Allowances (EMA).
Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education, said: “We wanted to make sure that all the young people who qualify for EMA continue to receive support. We hope this action will provide some additional level of financial support in what is a difficult time for families.
For each qualifying student, the Comhairle has made an advanced payment of £30 per week up until the 5th of June 2020. This will be reviewed on the 8th of June and another advance payment will be issued to those eligible till the end of term on 26th of June 2020.
Mr Chisholm, continued: “All families with pupils in nursery and from P1 to S6 whose children qualify for Free School Meals will be paid £154 per child for the period between now and the 30th of June 2020. All families with pupils in P1 to P3 who qualify for Assistance with School Clothing will automatically qualify for this Free School Meal payment.”

Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) Statement
The current public health advice has meant that SQA have had to make some really difficult decisions about coursework. This means that for this year, schools and colleges are not required to submit learner coursework for marking, in Higher and Advanced Higher courses.
SQA have taken this difficult decision to be as fair as possible to all Higher and Advanced Higher candidates, whilst taking on board the current public health advice, the many varied coursework requirements across different subjects, and how these are managed in schools and colleges across the country.
SQA appreciate that some learners may have already completed their coursework for Higher and Advanced Higher courses. This work can still be used as part of the suite of evidence for teachers and lecturers to draw on as they consider estimated grades.
SQA have received coursework for a range of National 5 subjects and have contacted National 5 coursework markers to confirm marking arrangements. All National 5 coursework, due to be uplifted in April and May, will not be submitted for marking.
SQA will provide further details on the estimation of grades, that they will need from teachers and lecturers to inform certification, and fuller details of their approach to certification, as soon as possible.
This is an unprecedented situation for us all, and circumstances are rapidly changing. With every change in circumstances, SQA continue to consider how best to recognise learner achievement in as fair a way as possible.
Comhairle Statement
The school/authority is awaiting the details mentioned above by SQA. In the meantime, we are considering all the evidence we have of your son’s/daughter’s work across the session, including the prelim exam and any course work submitted so far, in making estimates to the SQA after the Easter holidays. Please be assured that staff will use professional judgement in making estimates, and estimates will be verified internally according to school policy.
Please note that we are not able to accept course work handed in to the school at the present time.
We will keep candidates and parents up to date with any further information received from SQA and recognise that this is a very unsettling time for all SQA candidates and their families.
The full statement is available through the following link

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and ELC closures – guidance for key workers
The Scottish Government have updated their guidance setting out what childcare and learning provision they expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and day care of children, including early learning and childcare (ELC), services to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
The Scottish Government have told local authorities 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.
In general, we expect that if key workers can perform their critical functions effectively when working remotely from home, they should do so. Please consider carefully any appropriate alternative childcare arrangements that can be put in place before seeking critical childcare and learning provision.
The updated guidance is available through the following link—school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/

Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Service Update 23 March 2020

Key Worker Registration for Education Provision
The Comhairle would like to thank parents and employers who supported us in following the guidance issued over the weekend about key workers self-identifying at schools today. We now have a good understanding of the likely demand that provisions will see.
To help us to better shape the provision being made for key workers, we are introducing an online registration system for attendees from Wednesday 25th March and it is open now.
Each registration will be screened and a confirmation issued to parents if their children are eligible to attend school from Wednesday onwards.
The registration form can be accessed here:
•Registration is open now for Wednesday onwards but we ask that key workers continue to self-identify on Tuesday morning.
•We ask that employers work with their employees to identify their key workers, as per the definitions issued by Scottish Government and then ask staff to complete this registration form.
•Any employee completing the form MUST have had confirmation from their employer that they are considered a key worker.
•Parents are asked to complete the form themselves for their children once their employer has agreed their status.
•If both parents are key workers, both will need to submit an application
•The service can only be used by key workers who have NO OTHER CHILDCARE AVAILABLE.
•You only need to complete the form once to access provision.
•Registration closes to new applicants at midnight daily to allow attendance from the next day.
•From Wednesday 25th March, pupils will only be able to attend if a registration form has been received and approved.
•Any parents without internet access to complete the registration should seek the support of their employer to do so in the first instance.
•The Comhairle will share registration information with employers for verification purposes.

Further Update on Education Provision for Key Workers
Following a further announcement by Scottish Government on Sunday 22nd March, S4-6 pupils SHOULD NOT ATTEND to complete course work as previously intimated. Schools will work with students to complete any outstanding coursework remotely, where possible. For the avoidance of doubt – prelims will not take place.
The Comhairle wishes to reiterate the following guidance in relation to all those who are able to attend Comhairle schools tomorrow:
1) The children of key workers where there is NO ALTERNATIVE PROVISION available.
2) Pre-identified vulnerable children
In relation to provision from Monday, please note that:
•Provision is strictly for the children of Key Workers only
•Key workers can self-identify and on Monday their children can attend at their regular school.
•A Key Worker registration system is being put in place in partnership with employers.
•Pupils attending can access normal school transport
•Schools will follow normal hours but content of learning will be different
•Attendance is not compulsory for any student
•For those pupils who remain at home, educational content and learning will be available
•We encourage all young people to maintain daily study, exercise and activity programmes while observing key Public Health messages regarding safe behaviour, practices and social distancing
•Parents can post questions on the Director’s Blog or via Comhairle social media channels
•The Comhairle will continue to work during the period of closure to share daily tips for engaging young people and families in terms of education, cooking, housework/DIY, fitness, Gaelic, mental health and other examples.
•We are planning other online activities such as Ceilidhs in the coming days and will share details soon.
Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services, said: “Our teachers have our full trust and confidence in their key role in supporting frontline staff by providing this support service. It is important we all recognise that our teaching resource is limited and I would ask people to be patient and to work with us to ensure that only those who need to come to school do so.
“Clearly, this is a fluid situation and as updates come in we are committed to ensuring we share that information at the earliest possible opportunity through our various communication channels.”

Access to IT Equipment
In situations where school pupils have no or limited access to IT equipment please contact your school in the first instance. The Education, Skills and Children’s Services Department will make every effort to meet identified needs.

Pupil Attendance at School Buildings from 23rd March
Following the national school closure, the Scottish Government has set three criteria for pupils who can continue to attend in schools (Please note this has now been reduced to the two criteria below). 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.
1) Key Workers: 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.
The Comhairle 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, we ask 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.
2) Vulnerable Pupils:
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.

Key Worker Status
In order to assist you to determine whether you are a key worker or not, we would reinforce the following points:
1. You should be a key member of staff i.e. delivering direct care to patients/clients in an NHS or social care setting (hospital, NHS practices, care home or homecare). This is also includes ancillary support staff, social workers, allied health professionals, cleaners, porters and catering staff).
2. You should be a member of school staff (e.g. teacher, support worker, catering staff, janitorial or admin)
3. You should be providing direct emergency service provision (e.g. fire, ambulance, police, coastguard)
4. You should be a worker in the utilities sector (e.g. Hydro, water board, gas)
5. You should be a worker in the transport sector (ferry, planes, hauliers, deliveries of food, buses)
6. You should be a worker in food and/or retail distribution (e.g. butcher, chemist, supermarket worker, small shops providing food)
For those workers listed above, their children should only attend school in the following circumstances:
– When they have no appropriate alternative childcare available to them
– On a day when they would normally be working (i.e. Children only attend school when you are at work)
Education, like other services, is working with a reduced level of staff. Therefore, other support staff, in relation to the above criteria – such as admin, HR functions and finance – should have approval of line management and their names provided to the Education department (through their own service) from Monday onwards.
Vacancies and absences in critical care services have already created a situation where we may have to redeploy staff to support frontline workers. Many of our teaching staff have volunteered to work across other services and it is therefore important that the pupils attending at our schools are those of key workers only.

Coronavirus: Education Service Live Stream
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
The following document includes questions and answers from the live stream: 200323 ESCS Coronavirus Live Stream Questions

Coronavirus – School and ELC closures: Guidance on Critical Childcare Provision for Key Workers
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—school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/

What is the situation with SQA Exams?
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

School Closure Response from Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services 18 March 2020
The Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services response to the Scottish Government’s announcement that all school will close from Friday 20 March 2020 can be accessed through the following link.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of:
• new continuous cough and/or
• high temperature
It has been announced by the UK/Scottish Government that as of 16 March anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, however mild, should stay at home for 7 days from the onset of symptoms as per existing advice. In addition, it is now recommended that anyone living in the same household as a symptomatic person should self-isolate for 14 days.

What does self-isolation mean?
Staying at home and not going to work, school or public areas.
Avoid close contact with others by:
• avoiding having visitors
• not using taxis or public transport
• asking a friend or neighbour to get your shopping or arranging for a delivery to be left at your door
• not sharing towels, clothes, toothbrushes or razors
Information on self-isolation can be found here: NHS Scotland

Will I get paid if I self-isolate for 14 days?
Employees who have been instructed to self-isolate because a member of their household has become symptomatic then you should arrange with your manager to work from home if this is practical. If you are unable to work from home then you will be granted 14 days paid special leave. Please complete the Home Working and Paid Special Leave – Coronavirus form which is available through the following link.
Leave Form – Coronavirus

What if I have an underlying health condition?
If you fall within any of the categories below then you should arrange with your manager to work from home if this is practical. If you are unable to work from home then you will be granted paid special leave until further notice. Please complete the Home Working and Paid Special Leave – Coronavirus form which is available through the following link.
Leave Form – Coronavirus
• aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
• under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
• chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
• chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
• chronic kidney disease
• chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
• chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
• diabetes
• problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
• a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
• being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
• those who are pregnant

How can I help children deal with stress during the Covid-19 outbreak?
The following link takes you to an information sheet from the World Health Organisation
The following link takes you to information from Anxiety UK on how to talk to children about COVID-19

Can I still travel for work?
Work-related travel off island for Comhairle staff will not be permitted unless it is absolutely critical. Inter-Island travel and travel between establishments must also be kept to a minimum and only considered if critical.
It is strongly recommended that you review any personal travel plans over the next three months, even if it is only to mainland UK.Information on any travel restrictions can be found on the foreign and commonwealth office website

How can I avoid catching infections like coronavirus?
You can reduce your risk of getting and spreading respiratory infections by:
• avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth.
• maintaining good hand hygiene – washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser:
• after coughing or sneezing
• after going to the toilet
• before eating and drinking
• avoiding direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoiding using their personal items such as their mobile phone.
• covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with disposable tissues and disposing of them in the nearest waste bin after use.

What support is there for Businesses?
The Scottish Government has announced a number of support measures and the Comhairle is working towards implementing these measures as soon as possible. See the Comhairle press release

Further information and other useful links
• Care Inspectorate Advice
• Health Protection Scotland• UK Government Coronavirus Action Plan
• Public Health Scotland• Scottish Government – Coronavirus
• UK Government – Coronavirus
• World Health Organisation – Coronavirus

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