Briefing – Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Below is a briefing from the Council on Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities.

Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Throughout the pandemic the Council has been trying to balance the need to continue providing services to residents while keeping colleagues safe and following national guidance. The need to do this currently is particularly acute as cases of covid-19 are rising across the city. There are also challenges around re-opening services to pre-covid levels in a safe way given the financial cost of covid-19 to the Council.

We need to bear in mind the wider dependencies between the delivery of these covered in this briefing note and the safe provision of school education. These dependencies include the cost and availability of:

  • cleaning and janitorial support and
  • the potential increased risks to school provision by opening the school estate more broadly that potentially impact on the controls put in place to reduce the spread of infection within schools.

This briefing note updates you on the current position of the three key issues of:

  • working with community centre management committees to facilitate using the centres for community youth work
  • re-opening of a second tranche of libraries and
  • steps being taken to allow extra-curricular activities using school facilities to re-start.

These must be managed within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and considering other associated guidance issued by bodies such as COSLA.

Current position
Planned next steps
Reporting to committee

Current position

Community youth work in community centres

At present, the Council is facilitating detached youth work in outdoor spaces and on a one-to-one basis in publicly accessible indoor spaces. This is to allow for critical contact with young people who are most in need.

Our Lifelong Learning Service team would normally deliver direct a range of youth work programmes in schools and community settings. At times, we deliver this youth work in partnership with community and third-party organisations. However, most of it is provided by the voluntary/third sector. Many of these organisations have access to their own premises and, in line with Scottish Government guidance for the third sector, have re-started providing youth work in those buildings.

There are youth work providers that use council community centres to carry out their work. This is mainly coordinated directly with the management committee, although often facilities management (FM) and business support services (BSS) by Council staff.

Please note that some targeted individual support for young people from youth work providers can take place in school settings where this work forms part of a GIRFEC child plan.

As reported to Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, we have a process in place to enable management committees to make direct arrangements with the Council to access the building for defined purposes, including:

  • early learning and childcare
  • out of school care
  • blood donation services
  • food banks and other humanitarian purposes.
Libraries re-opening

As recommended in the report to the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, six of the 28 libraries have been reopened. These are:

  • Central Library
  • Fountainbridge
  • Kirkliston
  • McDonald Road
  • Newington
  • Stockbridge.

While the libraries service team would be able to run additional libraries, the key pressure on the Council relates to FM resources which are deployed within the school estate. Maintaining school re-opening has required – and continues to require – an increased level of FM resource across the whole school estate as they must deliver additional cleaning and infection prevention requirements. In addition, we’ve seen an increase (as at 18 October 2020) in the sickness absence rates for FM colleagues, with a number required to self-isolate as a result of covid-19 cases rising in schools, both within the student and colleague/teaching populations.

It is therefore essential that additional pressures and stress are not unduly placed on the FM service through further increasing the workload without a corresponding increase in both budget and available staff to undertake this additional work. To help mitigate these pressures, we’ve continued to recruit cleaning staff throughout the pandemic (recruitment has never slowed) and, at present, we’re progressing filling 56 posts.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Over the course of the first term, we applied rigorous risk management processes to make sure schools re-opened safely and any concerns were well-managed. These included infection control, workforce pressures and addressing gaps in learning. We developed strong relationships with health contacts and partner authorities which have shaped the service’s risk management processes. In particular, the contact tracing aspect of managing positive cases among staff and pupils helped schools to refine and tighten arrangements such as timetabling, staggered breaks and lunches and communications to parents and carers. Despite this, cumulatively, there have been 27,532 pupil absences related to covid-19 since the start of term. In addition, in w/e 16 October 20 alone, we have 336 staff absences related to covid-19.

Knowing that with every increased contact the risk of infection increases, our School Operation Risk Toolkit (SORT) and Framework has operated within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and has restricted all but essential activities to a minimum. Until specific guidance is published by Education Scotland for extra-curricular activities, we use the reopening of schools guidance which clearly indicates parameters in which we work. Limiting contacts has ensured that schools have been able to remain open despite infectious cases being present. However, we now have far greater workforce pressures due to covid-19 related absence, not all of which can be addressed through the Scottish Government funding for additional teachers.

Re-introducing additional school activities therefore requires us to continue the cautious risk management approach. The School Operations Risk Toolkit and Framework is contained as Appendix 1. It details the approaches taken to ensure careful and appropriate risk management is in place. Various guidance documents are produced which articulate to SORT. These include the extra-curricular guidance document also attached. The document provides the step-process by which school and sports leaders can check proposed activities. The ability to resume activities depends on several interrelated factors: ventilation, cleaning, the number of contacts the teacher/tutor/coach has had in the day/week, as well as the obvious benefits of the activity.

Safely resuming all school activities is everyone’s goal. However, maintaining educational delivery remains paramount and we cannot risk that by rushing to re-open groups, no matter how much they are desired. This is particularly important while the R number continues to rise.

We have significant planning well underway for incrementally re-introducing extra-curricular activity across the school. The gradual return to sport and a wide range of other non-sporting activities is aligned to the safe return to school for all staff and pupils and aims to minimise interaction between pupils and adults and to retain school grouping structures where possible.

Schools can supplement Council extra-curricular activities and SORT guidance with specific governing body or equivalent advice. However, this should not replace or undermine the guidance.

We’re following national guidance to ensure we maintain the highest possible standards of safety for our children and young people. The current position and principles regarding extra-curricular activities are that it is only permitted if it is:

  • essential for literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.
  • important for the young person’s learning, development and wellbeing ie on a young person’s plan and can be justified using appropriate mitigations.
  • something that can safely re-start because the R number suggests it is safe to do so following relevant guidance.

We are considering further guidelines for extra-curricular activities based on the latest guidance from Scottish Government, industry bodies, national governing bodies, Education Scotland and members of the Education Recovery Group. As with all guidelines at present, we need to look at the overall scientific advice which is current and relevant.

The Council’s Sports Academy is a highly valued programme and, by its nature, each sport within it brings together pupils from several schools across the city. For this reason, it’s not currently suitable to restart the Sports Academy, but we’ll review this position along with other aspects of extra-curricular activities on an ongoing basis.

Planned next steps

Community youth work in community centres

We’re contacting all management committees immediately to ascertain:

  1. whether they wish to use their facility for the provision of youth work
  2. what assistance they require from the Council in order to do so
  3. that the management committee is confident that the youth work can be undertaken in line with Scottish Government guidance.

When we get this information, we will identify how many require assistance from the Council. If there is an increased cost to the Council to meet these requests, then we will need committee approval to authorise an increase in budget. If management committees can undertake re-stat youth work without the need for people or financial assistance from the Council, we will be able progress those quickly.

Libraries re-opening

The full-year cost increase of re-opening the first six libraries in September was approximately £200k per annum. We’re preparing plans to re-open the following libraries in line with the plan that was approved by Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August:

  • Drumbrae (north-west Edinburgh)
  • Craigmillar (north-east Edinburgh)
  • Wester Hailes (south-west Edinburgh), with a replacement of Currie Library if Wester Hailes cannot be safely re-opened due to the ongoing construction works at Westside Plaza.
  • Gilmerton (south-east Edinburgh).

Given that this next tranche of re-opening will cost a further £200k (approximately), this will require the approval of both Policy and Sustainability committee and Council. Prior to this being brought forward for committee approval (if applicable), we must consider the availability of FM teams to support existing operations, particularly in school settings, and make sure that the re-opening of the additional libraries will not present a risk to the priority of maintaining a fit for purpose cleansing regime in our schools.

Subject to approval, we’re working to an indicative opening date of 14 December, but this may vary for each library. We will provide greater clarity on opening dates closer to the time.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Subject to not needing additional FM resources – and therefore no additional budget increase – we’re developing plans to allow extra-curricular sporting activities to re-start in line with Scottish Government guidance.

We’ve reviewed the current position on extra-curricular activities and have drawn up proposals to re-introduce them incrementally after the October schools break. We’ve created a tool (see extra-curricular activities decision-making tree attached at appendix 2) which allows us to determine whether an activity can take place from 27 October.

We recommend that volunteers are not permitted to deliver or support any form of extra-curricular activity to support infection control procedures and our ability to track and trace.

We’ll review this position on 12 November. We’ll develop guidance to allow some Council-approved external providers to deliver extra-curricular activities in specific contexts which are explained in the decision-making tree. Schools and lifelong learning colleagues are permitted to deliver extra-curricular activities in approved contexts.

Reporting to committee

If there is a need for additional budget and FM resource, we’ll take this to the next available Policy and Sustainability Committee, along with any resource requirements to allow for youth work in community centres to re-start and the next tranche of libraries to re-open.

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