Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 5 March 2021

It has been great to see some of our children and young people return to classrooms for face-to-face teaching in the past fortnight, as the start of a phased reopening of our schools and nurseries.

I'd like to thank everyone involved in facilitating the safe return of our children and young people and also all our teaching colleagues for the fantastic support and online learning they continue to provide, giving parents and carers the confidence we are doing everything we can for their children.

There was more positive news for parents and carers this week when Scottish Government confirmed that all primary pupils will return to school full-time from 15 March, unless new evidence or circumstances force them to reconsider. All primary school children will also be able to return to regulated childcare from that date.

The next step is a phased return to secondary school from 15 March - with a clear expectation that all secondary school pupils will be back in school on a full-time basis after the Easter holidays. It is the intention that all secondary school pupils will return to spend some time in school each week from 15 March until the Easter break and we will be writing to parents and carers in the coming days to outline the details following further Scottish Government guidance.

The reason we are able to implement these changes is because case numbers and hospital admissions are falling, as is the number of people requiring intensive care. The level 4 restrictions in place are working and I'd like to thank everyone for playing their part and would encourage everyone to continue to follow the stay at home guidance.

There was further brighter news this week following Scottish Government confirmation they will review the current schedule for the easing of restrictions to see if the original timetable of the end of April can be brought forward. This is the planned return to the protective measures and levels bringing a gradual return to normality, which I know we will all want to see.

As I've previously highlighted, we are also beginning to see positive signs of the impact from the vaccination programme and this is especially true in our care homes where all staff and residents have now been offered their second vaccination. It is because of this progress that from Thursday 4 March, and to support the safe reintroduction of meaningful friends and family contact in our care homes, residents have been able to start welcoming up to two visitors a week, with on-site testing and additional PPE measures in place to keep everyone safe.

Following the successful implementation of regular at home testing of staff and senior pupils, last week all staff working at our Underwood Road Depot and Renfrewshire House had the opportunity to take part in a short testing programme using home PCR tests for COVID-19.

Thanks to all our staff taking part in testing. Along with the other safety measures we have in place, this extra measure will help further reduce the risk of COVID-19 and help protect you, your family and friends and colleagues.

This is part of a wider nationwide expansion of regular, routine testing of those without symptoms which also includes targeted community testing for people without symptoms in communities that are experiencing stubbornly high levels of the virus.

Our first community mobile testing site, supported by the Scottish Ambulance Service, took place in Gallowhill in Paisley this week when a mobile testing unit for people who do not have symptoms was set-up because of high rates of COVID-19 in the local community.

It is hoped by targeting resources within our communities where there is a high prevalence, then we will identify more cases of the virus, giving us a better chance of stopping it from spreading and supporting a return to normality.

This week, Councillors approved the council budget for the financial year ahead. This is a budget that will support our plans to help communities and businesses recover as we emerge from this pandemic in the months ahead and I look forward to working with teams across the council to deliver these priorities. You can read more about the detail of the budget here.

It's been heartening to see longer and lighter days as we look forward to Spring. I know how much all of us are looking forward to the prospect of restrictions being relaxed and the opportunity to see family and friends soon. That's why its so important we all continue to stick together and follow the rules, to keep the number of cases falling so we can look forward to the months ahead.

Please also remember to take some time out to recharge and refresh and look after your own wellbeing as well. We have a range of support available for anyone who needs it, so if you need it, please talk to someone or check out the staff section of our website for further advice.

Thank you and stay safe.

Sandra