Orkney Islands Council continues to take steps to ensure childcare is provided in schools and nurseries for the children of key workers.
As this week progresses, the council will review patterns of childcare use and seek to ensure that the location and scale of the childcare being provided remains appropriate to the level of demand. Key worker applications are still being processed and we will endeavor to respond to all applicants on Tuesday.
We are also reviewing the demand for school transport. A full service was provided on Mainland on Monday 23 March, but the volume of pupils using the service was exceptionally low.
We have, therefore, taken the decision to suspend the majority of school transport routes until further notice. Provision will continue for pupils who made use of school transport on Monday and we will continue to monitor demand as the new childcare arrangements bed in.
We are also aware that parents and carers of children eligible for benefits-related free school meals will be seeking certainty regarding the continuity of this while schools are closed.
Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to children who are not attending. These are, however, not normal circumstances and we will continue to provide this support.
In the first instance, we are committed to reimbursing families whose children would usually receive a free school meal – for the cost of providing their own meals during the current week.
This reimbursement will consist of a payment of £3 pounds per-day, per-pupil up to a maximum of £15 for the week.
Arrangements for continuing to provide benefits-related free school meals will be introduced and communicated to parents at the earliest opportunity.
Options currently being considered are the continuation of catering services in school premises and the provision of weekly food ‘hampers’.
We are also aware that Scottish Government is currently developing a national voucher-based solution. It is likely that OIC will make use of each of these options depending on the individual circumstances of each school and/or pupil.
If you believe that your child may be entitled to benefits-related free school meals, particularly if your child has previously automatically received a free school meal as a nursery or P1-P3 pupil, but have not yet applied - then you are encouraged to follow the application process which can be accessed here.