As council services slowly return across West Dunbartonshire, the safety of staff and the community is my priority, and I really appreciate the public’s patience and understanding.

If everything goes well, we’ll have everyone back in school in August. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to our teachers, learning assistants and wider workforce, who have done an amazing job during lockdown, providing remote learning and running school hubs for key workers.

Staff have also put a huge effort into ensuring our schools can be set up in a safe way if circumstances lead the Government to decide that we need a more phased return to school.

A full return is subject to the virus remaining suppressed, and we’ve seen some localised spikes across the UK with special measures being taken in places such as Leicester and Dumfries and Galloway.

The situation in Scotland, while more positive than in England, is precarious, so it’s been good to see such a high compliance with the new face mask legislation.

I want to emphasise to our staff that with ever changing health advice and the unpredictability of the virus, the contingency plans that you’ve all worked so hard on are vital to ensure we’re ready for any scenario.

Your efforts are greatly appreciated, and I thank you on behalf of the council and our communities for everything you’ve done and continue to do for our children and young people.

In early years, while the Scottish Government have understandably delayed legislation on the expansion of free pre-school education, we are working to deliver 1,140 hours to every three- and four-year-old, and every two-year-old who is eligible, as soon as possible.

Where we had 1,140 hours in place, or were ready to go live, we hope to deliver that straight away, subject to public health guidance.

It’s inevitable that there will be delays in some establishments where renovation and other preparatory work had to cease due to lockdown restrictions, but we’re not waiting until legislation is enacted to do the right thing; we’re working as quickly as we can to get plans back on track.

New letters will be issued to parents as soon as we have updated public health advice and know where we can open safely.

Be assured that schools and early years establishments will only reopen when it’s safe to do so. The wellbeing of our staff, parents, children and young people is paramount, and while you can never completely remove risk from any situation, we will not compromise on health and safety.