Newsletter March 2022
Hello, we hope everyone had a lovely February break and are enjoying the first signs of spring! The parent council met via TEAMs on Monday night and our Co-Chairs gave a brief update on what has been keeping them busy. Our Chairs attended the meetings held by Edinburgh Council regarding the impact of COVID related restrictions on schools and we should hear an outcome from these meetings soon. They have been in discussions with Mr Urquhart regarding the future of Comiston Road. It’s been many years since the “big” school has welcomed P1’s and P2’s, so planning for the future when the younger members of our school return to the site is starting already. We are all excited that the Stage Club production of Ollie T has started. We wish the cast and crew lots of luck and we hope you all enjoy the show! There are still tickets available so please invite friends and family!! https://fienta.com/ollie-t
Mr Urquhart updated us on the progress with Canaan Lane Primary. He was lucky enough to be allowed into the school along with Mrs Morgan and Mrs Richmond to have a look around and see the new space for the children. It sounds like it’s going to be amazing, lots of break out spaces, a large atrium, and a cooking kitchen onsite for freshly made meals! Mr Urquhart is in consultation with our Co-Chairs regarding planning for the transition and as mentioned above the eventual accommodation of P1 and P2 in Comiston Road.
Mr Urquhart reiterated the reasoning for SMPS reducing COVID restrictions more slowly than advertised by Edinburgh Council. The school has seen a large rise in numbers (you may have noticed the abundance of warn and inform emails!). They are reviewing this regularly and making decisions based on what’s right for our school community. There have been benefits to some of the restrictions, for example the staff have noticed children have more room in the playground because of reduced numbers and fewer accidents!
Our Accommodation subgroup continue to have regular meetings with the contractor of the new school and Edinburgh Council. SMPS P1 and P2 will relocate there after the Easter break (dates to be confirmed) all being well, and the new nursery will move to the site after the summer break (again not confirmed so don’t quote us!).
Regarding the renovation of Deanbank house, it is unlikely to be the same contractor doing the works that has been building the new school. The team are going to suggest that the Council use the same agreed ways of working for the new contractors regarding the safety of the children and times unsuitable for heavy vehicles etc.
Concerns have been raised regarding traffic on Canaan Lane with the building works on the site of the old public toilets. Vehicles have been driving both ways as the Morningside Road end is blocked off. Edinburgh Council are taking these concerns seriously. Please do get in touch if you have any concerns or questions.
Lots to update you on here! Guitar Club started in February and there are now 4 classes with a total of 34 children learning guitar with Paul from Morningside School of Music at Greenbank Church Halls weekly, thanks to the amazing efforts of the new convenor. Other clubs running this term are Recorder, Friday Night Football, Stage Club, Creative Writing, Judo, Chanter and Drumming.
Recorder Club are taking a group of P7s to perform at Edinburgh Music Competitions Festival this month. The school cannot take responsibility for children for this type of trip so Recorder Club have risk assessed, produced permission slips and asked parents to approve absence with the school. This is the first time the current team of clubs’ admin/convenors have done this so many thanks to Sue Hoole and Elaine Jones for paperwork. We wish them lots of luck!
You may have seen on classlist that Ski Club has been offered a reduced number of places at Hillend. The terms will run from April to June, and August to October. Hillend can accommodate 7 groups of 10 children. Last term there were 103 children taking part so it may come down to a ballot if there are as many children wishing to ski as last time.
Clubs is hoping to meet with Mrs Richmond and the team to discuss formalising Pupil Equity Fund requests for access to Parent Council clubs, so we can ensure that families requiring financial support to attend clubs receive help appropriately.
Going forward this term the Clubs team are looking for people to volunteer a small amount of time (2 x 1-hour sessions) to support a safeguarding review. If anyone has any experience or interest your help would be most appreciated. Please do get in touch.
Canaan Lane Subgroup
Hopefully everyone has seen the excellent news that Mrs Richmond has been appointed as Head Teacher for the new school. Congratulations Mrs Richmond.
The Council are still hopeful that children and staff will be able to visit the new school before moving in but unfortunately parents will not be able to visit. There are plans to make a video tour that can be shared with parents though. We have been informed that Edinburgh Council are intending on sending out communication to parents soon regarding school places, and they are also hoping to tell families who have made out of catchment requests the outcomes of their applications soon. They also plan to phone families who have made out of catchment requests to discuss each situation and their needs, to plan for the kind of support and mitigation that may be needed for families caught across two schools
The subgroup will be meeting again with the Education Dept on 25th March, so any further questions that people have then please do get in touch.
There is lots going on for the transport team too just now. They are working on a plan for the upcoming School Travel Review. All parents will be receiving a survey in April asking for details of how they currently travel to school, how they’d like to travel to school, and what changes they’d like to see to make travel easier. They are hoping to prepare some materials for parents with suggestions that they can make. This survey will form the basis of a 5-year plan for the school and is our best opportunity to get some physical infrastructure built to enable safer travel to school, including possible crossing points and walking/cycle segregation. More information is available at
Schools – Streets Ahead (streetsaheadedinburgh.org.uk)
Have you seen the road safety banners? They seem to be making a difference and we are grateful for all in our community for considering the safety of our children and parking safely. Community Police are monitoring parking and will be getting in touch with illegally parked cars.
If you have any questions, suggestions or are keen to be involved please get in touch.
HELP NEEDED! Every year the Parent Council accounts require to be independently examined and the current independent examiner has stepped down. Do you know someone who might be interested in helping us with the role? It does not need to be an accountant but a suitably skilled parent or community volunteer who is not on the PC or related to anyone on the PC.
The role involves….
- Checking the accounts against main bank statements at the end of the year
- Liaising with the treasurer regarding invoices and details for selected large transactions
- All information is provided by email attachments and correspondence
- The role typically involves no more than a few hours and usually takes place in July or August
- No qualifications are required and there is no liability.
If you would like more information please get in touch.
Potential New Subgroup – Supporting Neurodiversity
A parent highlighted the need to support children and families who may be struggling with neurodiversity and the process of being diagnosed and supported. This was discussed at the meeting and felt it could be a huge source of support for parents and the school. Would you be interested in joining the Subgroup? If so please email our Chairs for more information.
Next SMPC Meeting
The next meeting will be on Monday 25th April, where we will have an update from Mrs Jones regarding outdoor learning.
As always, we welcome as many parents as possible to attend! Our Parent Council and sub-groups are run by volunteer parents who do their best to try and help enrich our children’s lives. If you think you could help at all, or would like to know more about our subgroups, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
South Morningside Parent Council
March 2022 newsletter
Read the latest newsletter following March’s Parent Council meeting for some key information and updates.
SMPC newsletter January 2022
The January 2022 news letter covers key updates following the January Parent Council meeting.
SMPC meeting 6 December 2021
The Parent Council met on 6 December. To see what we’ve been up to, you can view the draft minutes of the meeting.
Return to School FAQ
SMPC Return to school FAQ
Last update – 9:50pm, 25.08.20 (changes to: scooting & cycling to school, clubs, what to do if you child has Covid-19 symptoms and driving to school)
South Morningside Parent Council has worked with the school to try to answer some of the questions parents and carers are asking most often about the return to school. We’ve made every effort to make sure the answers are clear, concise and accurate but thoughts on how they could be improved, particularly as circumstances change, are always welcome. We will try to update the FAQ as often as we can but of course we’re also working and caring for our own kids, as well as trying to do our bit as volunteers on the Parent Council.
STAYING SAFE AND WELL
How at risk are children from coronavirus and how likely are they to spread it?
There is some evidence that primary aged children may be less likely to catch the virus and it is certainly true that fewer than 1% of all confirmed coronavirus cases in Scotland have been amongst children under 15. Part of the reason for these very low numbers though is that children with coronavirus almost always have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, so they are much less likely to be tested. Even though over 2,000 people have sadly died of the virus in Scotland, there have been no deaths amongst those under 20. There is some evidence that children have a limited role in transmitting the virus – but the evidence is still developing.
What precautions will the school take to keep children safe?
The school has undertaken a series of detailed risk assessments developed by Edinburgh council and the Scottish Government, and will continue to monitor changes affecting these risk assessments. This process is part of the government guidance on reopening schools in a way that will keep pupils and staff safe. The school has been thoroughly cleaned and will be cleaned more often than uusual after it reopens. Everyone will be washing their hands much more regularly. Children will initially stay within their class groups. Classrooms will be well ventilated and pupils will have more time for outdoor learning.
What if my child or someone in our household develops Covid-19 symptoms?
If anyone in your household displays any of the recognised symptoms you should immediately self isolate and seek medical advice. The symptoms are:
- new, continuous cough
- fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
- loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste
What happens if my family have to be tested for Covid-19?
If a test is recommended for your child but comes back negative, your child can return to school once they have had no fever for 48 hours and are feeling better. Siblings can return to school immediately once a negative result is received. The return to school only applies, of course, if everyone else in the household who has had symptoms has been tested and found negative. Please show the teacher your child’s negative test result. This helps monitor cases and keeps the school community safe and reassured. If you or your children have a positive test result, please inform the school as well as working with the relevant public health and medical authorities. As always, if your child has any vomiting or diarrhoea they must remain at home for 48 hours after all symptoms have cleared before returning to school.
Will staff or children be expected to wear masks?
Children and staff will not be expected to wear masks but can choose to do so. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will only be used where there is close contact between adults or between adults and children for more than 15 minutes. School staff may need to be near children to provide intimate care or where coronavirus is suspected and pupils require supervision while they are in isolation, awaiting collection by parents or carers.
Will children be required to physically distance from each other?
In line with advice from the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, children will not be required to physically distance from their classmates but staff will stay 2m away from children and each other wherever possible. Particular care must be taken by parents and carers around school drop offs and pick-ups, where physical distancing between adults, and between adults and children from different families, must be observed. You can help create more space around schools by avoiding taking children to and from school by car wherever possible. If you must drive, please do not park anywhere near the school gates. Please follow the specific advice you have received regarding dropping off and collecting your children to minimise mixing between households, with the exception of mixing between children in the same class. Parents should not enter the school grounds unless they have been specifically asked to do so in the written instructions they have received from the school. Visits to the school will be by invitation only and you should contact the school by email or phone in the first instance.
Will children be in a ‘bubble’ with a limited number of children and staff?
Children will stay mostly in their class groups ‘bubbles’ and will be taught and supervised by the same small group of staff to minimise the risk of infection. This approach will also ensure any infections that do occur can be contained with a minimum of disruption to other pupils and their families. Passing other children briefly, even indoors such as in a corridor, is considered low risk based on scientific advice.
Must all children return to school?
All children should return to school, including those who have been shielding. If your child cannot return for any reason you should contact the school.
What extra cleaning arrangements will be in place at the school?
Normal daily cleaning will take place as well as increased disinfection of common touch points. Plans are being discussed to introduce an ongoing programme of electrostatic disinfection which is sometimes known as spraying, misting or fogging. The intention is for this to be undertaken each month to ensure the school environment remains virus free.
Will there be more outdoor play and learning to reduce the risk of transmission?
There will be a significant increase in the use of outdoor space in all but the very worst of weather. Care will be taken to limit the number of children in the same outdoor space from different classes, for example by staggering access to the playground, particularly at lunch and play times. The school will also be using local outdoor spaces which have been risk assessed.
What extra personal hygiene measures will be in place?
There will be regular handwashing by staff and pupils, and hand sanitisers will be widely available throughout the school. Pupils and staff will be required to wash their hands and/or use sanitiser on entering each classroom or shared space.
Should I wash all my child’s clothes every day after school?
Scottish Government advice is that this is not necessary and parents can continue to with their normal laundry arrangements. The school has suggested children come to school in ‘play clothes’ for the youngest children at Nursery and Deanbank, and joggers or shorts that can be easily washed for the upper stages.
What will the arrangements be for children and families that are shielding?
With the Scottish Government pausing the arrangements for everyone who has been shielding, any pupils who have been shielding or whose families have been shielding, will be able to return to school. Parents from shielding families should contact the school to discuss any additional steps that may be required to ensure their child returns to school safely. Normal arrangements for Health Care Plans are in place.
What happens if a child or staff member develops COVID-19 symptoms while at school?
Please let your children know that if they begin to feel unwell while at school they should inform a member of staff immediately. A space has been identified within the school where anyone developing symptoms can isolate until they can leave safely. The key initial step when coronavirus is suspected is the self-isolation and rapid testing of all symptomatic children and staff. The school will then arrange for the appropriate level of additional cleaning, in line with Health Protection Scotland guidance. The contact tracing service will identify the close contacts of anyone testing positive and advise them and their households to self-isolate while they are tested. Other children, their families and staff members at the school will not be required to self-isolate. If the school has two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days, or an increase in background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, they may have an outbreak. In this situation the school will work closely with the local health protection team and local authority to take the necessary steps and decisions to keep everyone safe. A detailed risk assessment for infection control has been conducted and shared with all staff.
Will the impact of reopening schools on the prevalence of coronavirus be monitored?
In addition to Test and Protect – Scotland’s test, trace, isolate, support strategy – a surveillance programme is being developed for schools, where regular testing and survey data will identify symptoms and infections in the school population. This will allow regular reporting on incidences of infection and inform the ongoing development of guidance for schools.
Mental health and wellbeing
Scottish Government advice is that the wellbeing of all children, young people and staff should be the central focus when preparing for the reopening of schools at a local level. Edinburgh’s mental health and wellbeing resources are sector leading, there will be a briefing to senior education leaders and headteachers on the support available before schools return. There will be strong emphasis during the early weeks of the return to school on wellbeing because until all children feel safe and happy, effective learning cannot take place.
Can children cycle or scoot to school?
Children are encouraged to cycle or scoot to school and can now leave their bikes and scooters in the playground during the day. Bikes and scooters should be walked through the playgrounds to to be parked. Children should observe social distancing when parking, so please remind them they should wait if the stands are busy to avoid crowding.
Why aren’t children allowed to bring bags, pencil cases, books and other items from home?
To create space for physical distancing and to make regular cleaning easier, classrooms need to be kept as clutter free as possible. These measures are initially for the first few weeks and will then be reviewed. Each class teacher will discuss with their class how personal items will be managed. Due to the curriculum we are following over the first few days especially, there is little need for any equipment to be brought to school initially. During the first few days back, full water bottles can be carried to school and used in the classroom.
Isn’t there a risk of bottlenecks at school gates?
There is a risk of bottlenecks around the school gates and we would ask parents to follow the year, house and site specific guidelines that the school has sent to all families. If you are dropping your children at the school gates then please do not loiter and in particular do not stop to talk with adults or children from other households. Think about whether older children are ready to get to and from school unaccompanied, or if you could drop them and collect them at an agreed point near the school rather than at the gates.
Can I drop my children to school by car?
You can help create more space around the school by avoiding taking children to and from school by car wherever possible. If you must drive, please do not park anywhere near the school gates. The school has emphasised again that no parent or carer should ever stop illegally on the double yellow lines and zig zags around the school to drop their children off. This is selfish and grossly irresponsible as it creates road safety dangers that put all children and parents at risk. The Parent Council has supported a proposal by the council’s Spaces for People programme to close Canaan Lane to motor traffic and this change is likely to take effect very soon.
Would there not be more room for distancing if parents could drop off to the playground?
Although there is more space inside the school grounds, Edinburgh council has decided that allowing more parents and carers into these spaces would greatly increase the risk of prolonged face to face mixing between households.
What are the arrangements for dropping off and collecting children from school?
These vary by site, by school year and by house – please refer to the email you have received from school. If you are dropping children at the school gate please do not stop at the gate, particularly to talk to other adults. Please do not park at the school gate when dropping off but on nearby streets and walk the remaining distance
In the original letter from the school it says pupils will ‘Attend full day’ on Friday – what exactly does this mean?
On Fridays all children at Comiston Road and Deanbank will attend school in the morning only. They should be dropped off at the times set out in the subsequent email sent to all parents/carers. Collection times are staggered to enable one parent or carer to collect children from both sites.
Is there a timeline for future changes including drop offs/pick up?
Arrangements will be reviewed after the first full week back at school but any changes will involve decisions by both Scottish Government and Edinburgh council. At present, changes to the staggered drop off and collection process seem more likely than a decision to allow parents back into school playgrounds.
What should my children wear to school?
Please send your children to school in clothes suitable for outdoor play but wearing school shoes and a school sweatshirt. Children should also bring in a plastic bag on the first day with footwear suitable for outdoor play such as walking shoes/boots or wellingtons and a pair of gym plimsolls or shoes.
How can we bring in gym and outdoors shoes without a school bag?
Please bring them in a plastic bag for now.
Do children need to bring in their PE kit?
This is not necessary as the guidelines around clothing and footwear will ensure children are dressed appropriately for indoor and outdoor activities. All PE lessons for the foreseeable future will take place outdoors.
What if I need to come into the school?
Please contact the school office who will try to deal with things remotely if possible but will arrange an in person appointment if necessary. The school office is not open for visitors or receiving any items during the school day.
How can parents whose children require medication arrange for this to reach the school along with any paperwork that is still required?
Please send your child in to school with all their medication in a sealed bag. Mrs Hughes and Mrs Kuryluk will check all bags and medication and either call or send home to parent’s appropriate health care forms. It is important that all back up medication is held in school as soon as possible, in order to enable outdoor learning to commence. If you require a new Health Plan please inform the school via email and or phone call.
What arrangements will be made for children who need a laptop for written work or other equipment to support their additional needs? Should this be brought from home or supplied by school?
The school will ensure that children with additional needs continue to receive the support they require, including any additional equipment they need. Digital equipment distributed during lockdown will be recalled for in school use.
Will children who receive additional support from specialist staff at the school continue to receive this support?
The school will prioritise ensuring that children with additional needs continue to receive the support they require, subject to necessary measures to limit the risk of spreading the virus. Initially the focus will be on health and wellbeing and appropriate measures to address learning needs will be communicated with parents once diagnostic and formative assessments have had suitable time to be carried out.
When will parents be informed about arrangements regarding the reopening of the nursery?
The Deanbank and Comiston Road school sites were only opened to staff on Monday 10 August. As yet the necessary arrangements, risk assessments and cleaning has not taken part at Fairmile Church Halls. Parents have been advised when their child and new starts will be re-enrolled into the Nursery Classes. There is no Nursery in the week beginning 10 August but it is hoped that staff will gain access to the site by Wednesday 12 August to begin preparations for reopening.
Why was the final decision that children would not require a full school uniform communicated long after most parents had already purchased new uniforms?
Children can wear school uniform if they wish but the school have advised that a large part of each day will be spent outdoors and traditional uniform will be less suitable for some of the planned activities. Up until the final days of last term, there was no expectation that the school would return fully in August. Following subsequent guidance from Scottish Government, including the decision on 30 July that schools would return full time, the school has had to adapt how it plans to deliver the curriculum, greatly increasing the use of outdoor learning, and issuing advice on the most suitable clothing for children to wear.
The letter to parents refers to ‘wet weather’ lunch arrangements – what does this involve?
Wet weather arrangements is what the children refer to, and understand, as a day when the playground is not in use. As part of these measures children will eat a packed lunch and have some scheduled time outside in the playground in a designated area. This will allow the supervision of children both within and outside the school by pupil support staff yet maintaining class and year group bubbles.
Should I send my child with a packed lunch or can lunches be ordered?
If you have ordered a lunch for this week your child will receive a packed lunch to their class, all other children should bring a packed lunch to school. Lunch orders are now open to book but as always this must be done well in advance. For the moment all school lunches will be packed lunches.
Should I send my child in with a water bottle?
Please send your child in with a full water bottle, this is particularly important at Comiston Road where the water in our classrooms is not drinking water from the mains. At Comiston Road, jugs of drinking water will be available if a child forgets their water bottle.
Might blended or remote learning be needed if coronavirus cases start to rise in the community or if there is an outbreak at school?
The return to school has been arranged in such a way as to minimise the risk of the virus spreading within the school. This will help minimise the risk of an outbreak that would require the school to close again. Contingency plans are in place to introduce blended learning or even full remote learning if the prevalence of the virus within the school or the wider community requires it. The parent council is continuing to look at ways it can help support families without adequate devices or internet access in the event that a return to home or blended learning is required.
ACADEMIC & EXTRACURRICULAR ISSUES
What are the learning priorities in the first days and weeks back at school?
The first priority will be to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the children, as well as staff and the wider school community. There will be far more outdoor play and learning than usual, both to support children’s wellbeing and also to help manage the risk of infection. The wellbeing of our children is important not only in its own right but also an essential prerequisite to any effective academic work taking place. There will be a series of mostly informal assessments to understand what children have retained, what they have learnt at home and where any gaps may have opened up. All these assessments will be conducted in a way that minimises stress for children, including those who may have struggled with home learning. When more formal teaching resumes, there will be an emphasis on literacy and numeracy in the first instance.
How will the school make sure children who have fallen behind are identified and supported?
Following lockdown, children may have developed gaps in their development in wellbeing, literacy and numeracy. Teachers will look to establish a baseline of where individual learners are and will work with the information shared by the pupil’s previous teacher. The school will be putting in place interventions to provide suitable challenge and support, as required, across extended bubbles or year groups.
When will clubs restart?
There are no dates set yet for the restarting of Active Schools activities or for recommencing the council letting processes that allow parent council clubs to use the school premises out of hours. It is very unlikely there will be any movement in these areas before the October half term. The parent council and our excellent clubs team are working hard to identify processes that would allow interested clubs to restart online where possible, including following an appropriate online children protection policy. Work is also underway to look at the strict requirements and procedures that would need to be in place before any interested club could safely restart in-person activities off-site.
NEW SCHOOL AND THE DEANBANK SITE
What is happening with the council’s proposal to shut Canaan lane to motor traffic?
Under its spaces for people programme, the Council has proposed to close Canaan Lane to all traffic except for residents. The South Morningside Parent Council has supported this proposal and also asked the council to consider whether pavements on Comiston Road around the school could be widened on a temporary basis. The deadline for comments on the spaces for people proposals was 12 August and it is likely to be several weeks before the proposed changes are finalised and implemented.
Will the building works for the new school at the Deanbank site be completed on time?
The council are still hopeful the building of the new school will be complete for August 2021 and are awaiting final details of the revised schedule from the contractor. Refurbishment of the existing Deanbank building will not however be completed by August 2021 so this will require management within the affected school communities.
Suggestions for additions, updates or corrections to the FAQ?
Newsletter June 2020
Welcome to our final newsletter of the school year. In this edition we will reflect on the Parent Council achievements over the 2019/20 year, and we also have a big ask for corporate laptop donations to help those SMPS families who are currently going without.
👩💻 Corporate Laptop Donations
There are a number of families who didn’t have access to computer devices to use Microsoft Teams during lockdown. The school loaned iPads to these families, but as the school year returns in August, these devices will need to be returned.
The Parent Council is looking to our parent body to see if anyone is able to source old laptops or tablets from local companies who might have them spare. The organisers of our Code Club have offered to help clean up any laptops, and they have also offered some guidance:
- AGE: Any Windows laptop/Chromebook/Macbook newer than 10 years of age
- MEMORY: 4GB+
- HDD: 128GB is fine for a home schooling Windows machine
- OS: Windows 7 at a minimum (though laptop age probably guarantees this)
If you might be able to help, or if you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
🖼 Reflections on 2019/20
What a year it has been, quite unlike anything any of us can really imagine.
We had a fantastic first term despite a lot of changes within the parent council and a lot of challenges on the accommodation front. This year we have introduced two new chairs, a new treasurer and an entirely new fundraising team. Thanks to excellent hand-overs and a lot of energy and enthusiasm, we organised a fabulous Winter Fair at short notice in a brand new venue and managed to raise over £5,600! It was a great achievement from all involved.
There have been many challenges on the accommodation front. We saw a much-needed refurbishment start at Comiston Road with new ceilings, heating improvements and windows throughout the school which is looking great. This did, however, cause huge challenges with many of our clubs, but thanks to our clubs admins and many convenors, we still managed to run many clubs at different sites this year.
In January, we saw work start on the new school at Deanbank. It has taken many years to get to this point so it was a huge milestone for the school and the PC. Unfortunately we did see rather a lot of issues with the construction firm and site logistics at the start, but thanks to quick work from the school’s management team and our accommodation group, we managed to work with the council and the construction firm to make the site a safer place for our P1/2 families. The PC will continue to work with the council and the construction firm as work restarts shortly and the main building work commences.
All of this changed, of course, in March with the coronavirus lockdown. It has been a huge challenge for teachers, parents and pupils alike but thanks to the resilience and determination of all involved, we are managing to get through it and it looks like we might be able to see a return to something resembling normality for the school in August. We are continuing to work with the school on contingency plans for how we can support parents if we need to return to a blended model at some point.
ℹ️ The PC needs your help!
If you’re interested in helping the Parent Council in the 2020/21 year we would love to hear from you. We have a number of key roles to fill, including:
- Vice Chair, to shadow current co-chairs (Brendan and Olly are both stepping down in 2021)
- Volunteers to join our subgroups such as fundraising, communications, accommodation, transport and finance
If you are interested in helping in any way, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
🗓 PC meeting dates for 20/21
- 14 September 2020
- 12 October 2020
- 23 November 2020
- 18 January 2021
- 8 March 2021
- 26 April 2021
- 14 June 2021
We hope you have a lovely summer – see you at our AGM in September!
☀️ The Parent Council Team
May 2020 FAQ
Frequently Asked Question
South Morningside Parent Council has worked with the school to try to answer some of the questions parents and carers are asking most often while the school is closed. We’ve made every effort to make sure the answers are clear, concise and accurate but thoughts on how they could be improved, particularly as circumstances change, are always welcome. We will try to update the FAQ as often as we can but of course we’re also working and caring for our own kids, as well as trying to do our bit as volunteers on the Parent Council.
Planning your home learning
Do we really have to do all the assigned work?
The Scottish government has made it clear that parents and carers are not expected to be teachers, nor to home educate in the formal sense. The needs and circumstances of families will vary considerably depending on their child’s specific needs, their household circumstances, and their knowledge and confidence.
The school is seeking to provide materials and activities that would allow parents and carers to support children to cover the same core learning that they would at school but it is clear that not all parents, carers and children will be in a position to complete all this work. Your children’s well-being comes first.
How much work should we do each day? What kind of timetable should we follow?
Try to set up a regular timetable that works for you and your children. Make sure you build in time for snacks, breaks and physical activity as well as more formal learning. Even if a parent or carer is available all day, it won’t necessarily be practical or necessary to expect children be work from 9.00 – 3.25pm every day. Government guidance suggests 3-4 hours a day or 15 hours over a week.
Other than what the school provides, what other support is available?
- The Scottish Government has provided advice and support on home learning
- Edinburgh Council has a list of external resources
- BBC Bite Size provides excellent learning resources tailored to each year and nation
- SMPS parents and carers have pinned a thread to the top of their Facebook Pagewhere everyone can share ideas and links:
How can we help ensure our children’s mental health and well-being?
The school has shared some advice about supporting children who are anxious about coronavirus. For many children though the hardest thing will not be fear of the disease itself but the disruption of their routines and particularly the inability to see friends and extended family.
While we are physically distancing, social closeness remains more important than ever and many of us are staying in touch with online chats, video calls or by telephone. For P5-7 children there is a chat function on Teams that will allow them to stay in touch with their classmates. The school will also seek to speak with specific children before the school holidays where it is important for different reasons to do so.
Where can I find the learning for my child’s class or year?
Nursery & P1-2 children’s work will be updated via your Learning Journal.
P3-4 children work will be updated by class on the school website
P5-7 children work will be updated by class on the school website as above but also on your child’s Teams account.
When will these be updated?
All classes/years will be updated on Friday for the week ahead. Resources will not be updated on public holidays or inset days when the school would normally be closed.
How can I share progress with teachers?
This is possible via Teams and the Learning Journal, and your teachers will respond to the work you share when they can. P3-4s are being asked to share updates, work or related photos with their teachers by email. P7s teachers are trialling the use of the assignments function on Teams.
Are there not better ways that we could manage online learning?
The school had to move very quickly to put in place the best systems it could to support remote learning based on existing capacities. There are undoubtedly many things that could and should be improved but there are also many other demands on teachers and support staff, just as there are on parents and carers. Different schools all entered this crisis with slightly different capacities to support remote learning based, for example, on whether their teams included specialist digital support staff and how widely they had already rolled out digital learning platforms such as Teams and Learning Journals. Most schools continue to use a mix of these platforms, plus some others, and their websites, to support remote learning. Where schools had strong pre-existing capacities, they have been able to adapt very quickly in some cases and there may be things we can learn from them. The school cannot though simply replicate what other schools may be doing overnight where this is based on different pre-existing capacities or where the school has made decisions based on the age appropriateness of materials and learning platforms.
What are teachers doing now?
Many teachers are supporting and caring for their own children. Some are working in the hubs set up to teach the children of essential workers. A lot of time is spent supporting parents and children who are having issues and responding to their questions and suggestions. They are also of course preparing and posting the learning materials on the different platforms we are using. The school leadership team is also preparing to contact as many children as possible before the holidays and is particularly concerned to reach families with whom they have had no contact to date. Teachers are also learning about and experimenting with new tools and ways of connecting with students, for example Mrs Richardson and Mrs Moore have created the school’s first video assemblies. This all means that time to make improvements to our remote learning systems or for individual contact with children is tight.
Couldn’t teachers run video classes?
The school has now provided some training and support to teachers to help them make their online learning materials more engaging, for example by creating PowerPoint presentations with accompanying voice overs. These approaches are likely to be used particularly where a new topic or concept is being introduced.
There are significant concerns from some teachers and the EIS teaching union about live streaming video lessons from teacher’s homes. Where other schools have run such classes, attendance has sometimes been poor and there is a very real risk that basing learning around online video conferencing could further exclude children with more limited access to the internet. These children already risk suffering disproportionately as a result of the school closure and preventing a widening of the educational attainment gap is one of the school’s primary concerns at this time.
Digital learning, communities and platforms
Why are P3-4s not on Teams/OneNote?
Well before the coronavirus outbreak, South Morningside Primary School was an early adopter of OneNote as a way of supporting home learning. After evaluating the suitability of the platform for different age groups, the school took the decision that it was most suitable for P5-7 children. This was because it is a powerful but relatively complex platform. There were concerns not just about its appropriateness for younger children, but also about the levels of support that many children, and indeed parents, would need to use it effectively. Teams was rolled out across Edinburgh Schools by the Council more recently and South Morningside took the view that it was also best suited to P5-7 children. Some schools, particularly where they had in house support from specialist staff, took a different view and are of course benefiting from this now that all learning is taking place remotely. Rolling out Teams to P3-4 children would be a huge undertaking at the best of times, and there are specific challenges at present, including the need for support from council staff to create new logins for a large number of children. The school still has longer-term concerns about whether these platforms are the best way to support home learning by P3-4 students in the future and it is worth noting that many parents and children who have access to Teams still prefer to use the website for at least some of the time. In addition to the website, P3-4 children and their families can now contact their teachers by email and we are exploring using a private area of the school website to allow us to share more content with P3-4s including videos.
Who do I talk to if I am having trouble logging into Teams?
Please email the school email@example.com
How do I find and use the different features on Teams and OneNote?
Teams is quite a complex system with links to OneNote and other parts of the Microsoft 365 suite of tools. You will need to spend time exploring it and playing with it to get familiar with how it works and all the different tabs and features. I’m afraid you can’t expect to sit down and start learning straight away the first time you start the programme up and you may find there are some things that you can do more easily on the school website.
Finding your home learning resources on Teams
- On the left-hand side of the screen is a tab called ‘Teams’ and if you click on this it will display all the subjects that are relevant for your child’s level.
- Within the subject you have clicked on, on the left, you can then click on your child’s year.
- Now Teams will display a series of ‘Posts’ from year teachers on the subject you are in – these posts will usually tell you about and link to new resources – if you look at the top of the window you can switch from ‘Posts’ to ‘Files’ where you will see just the attachments with the resources.
- Click on a resource in Posts or Files to preview it, click on the three dots at the top right of this window for the option to download the resource and open it outside of Teams – which may make it easier to read.
- To go back to the subject menu you can hit back on your browser or the ‘ < All teams ‘ text towards the top left of the Teams window you are in.
Class chat function
- On the page listing the Teams your child is part of there will also be a team with the name of their class – click on this to access the chat ‘channels’ set up by your teacher
- Channels are listed on the left of this new window – click into each one to see what’s there.
- At least one of the channels will include a place where children can leave messages for the class, not just the teacher
Sharing your learning with your teacher on OneNote
- Although OneNote and Teams are link it is probably easier to access them separately
- Once you open OneNote there are a series of resources including topics and activities that pre-date the current school closure
- On the left hand side of the window, click on the tab with your child’s name
- This will open another set of tabs that again include current and older material
- Different teachers my use different tabs but at the bottom you will find one labelled ‘My Home Learning’ and when you click on this it should open another sub-menu on the left with page headers you can click on to open each page
- When you have page open, you can add to a page by clicking the ‘Edit in Browser’ option at the top of the window with the pen icon.
- Once you have clicked ‘Edit in Browser’ you can either type messages or use the Microsoft Word style editing options to create your own headings, insert photos/files/links or draw.
- Leave details here of the home learning you are doing for your teacher and you may receive some feedback or encouragement.
Why are we using Teams/One Note given the issues it causes?
Teams, OneNote and the wider Microsoft 365 suite of programmes were selected and are being supported by Edinburgh Council. They are relatively complex, particularly for younger children, but also very powerful. Not every P5-7 child or family has to use every part of the system to benefit from it. The school will continue to provide as much support as it can to those children, parents and carers who need it, but teachers and support staff also have different levels of confidence in their use of the platform. Some P5-7 children and their parents and carers do still rely on the school website as well as or instead of Teams.
Couldn’t you use Groupcall/ Xpressions to just email the require work to each class/year?
Neither the system itself, nor the school admin team, have the capacity to make this a viable alternative at present.
How can we feedback to school with ideas and concerns?
They school is preparing a survey about the experience parents and carers are having with home learning. If you have further questions or corrections you think should be made to this FAQ you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions or suggestions for the school you can email email@example.com but please be aware the school is dealing with a very high volume of questions and suggestions at present. Do contact the school if you need help but please be aware that time spent responding to questions and suggestions is time they cannot spend supporting current learning, or planning and delivering improvements.
Returning to School
When will school reopen?
We don’t know when the school will reopen but Scottish Government ministers have indicated that it isn’t likely to be before the new school year in August 2020. When school does restart, we should not assume that all children will return at the same time and resume classes as normal. Indications of when schools in Scotland may begin to reopen will probably come first from the Scottish Government but specific arrangements will then need to follow in updates from Edinburgh Council and South Morningside Primary School. There will almost inevitably be some delay between the announcement and the release of specific details of how any changes will be implemented. Please also remember that because education is a devolved matter, UK government announcements regarding the reopening of schools have no direct impact on the situation in Scotland.
How can schools reopen while maintaining physical distancing to keep everyone safe?
No decisions have been made about how schools will reopen but it is quite possible there may be some changes to how many children can attend school and classes at the same time.
Will P7s be the first to return?
The Scottish Government has indicated in its updated framework for decision making that any return to school is likely to be phased and schools will not be open as normal for the foreseeable future. So far there is no timescale given for any return to school beyond saying it is unlikely to be until the new school year in August. The Scottish Government has also said that priority will be given to vulnerable pupils and those facing major transitions, such as P7 pupils.
In terms of what a phased return might look like it is perhaps worth quoting directly from the framework (Section 4, final para): “To enable ongoing physical distancing, most pupils are likely to have a blend of in-school and in-home learning. This would include attending school part-time in blocks of a few days or even a week at a time, to enable deep cleaning of schools between groups. Learning at home will be supported by consistent, high-quality online materials which will be developed to support the curriculum.”
Will the new school on Canaan Lane still be able to open in August 2021 as planned?
All work on the Canaan Lane site has currently been paused and it is not clear when they will recommence. The Scottish Government has suggested that some outdoor work and activity may recommence before indoor work and activity but is not clear how this will relate to construction work, where maintaining physical distancing during many activities may be challenging.
There was at least three months between the expected completion of building works on the new school and opening date but it is not currently clear if this will be a sufficient cushion. Neither the school nor the parent council has received any updates at this time regarding when works will recommence or what contingency planning, if any, is being done against the possibility that the new school will not be able to open as planned for the 2021/22 academic year.
Can we keep same teachers next year for continuity?
Unfortunately it won’t be possible for mostcmost to keep the same teachers as over a quarter of teachers tend to move on from the school each year, and keeping all the remaining teachers with their existing classes would make reorganising classes and schedules extremely difficult. Most children will however stay with the same classmates.
How will P7s be supported in their transition to Secondary school
The school is in discussions with Boroughmuir High School and looking at how this could be achieved. The school is still planning a proper send off for P7s whenever school resumes, including the grand march down the stairwell and the ringing of the old school bell.
Suggestions for additions, updates or corrections to the FAQ?