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Since 2010, I have been in several discussions with my local primary school and local authority in Aberdeenshire about concerns regarding safety and supervision of children arriving on school transport up to 20 minutes before the start of the school day.

Both have said they are satisfied that they are meeting their obligations to the safety of pupils under current Scottish Government guidance and legislation on playground supervision by having a “member of staff point of contact inside the school building during the 20 minute period before school starts”.

The Director of Education, Leisure & Learning at Aberdeenshire Council also stated in a meeting, that the Council do not have sufficient funds to pay staff to supervise playgrounds at all 150 primary schools for these 20 minutes. 

Interestingly, I have discovered that Glasgow City Council have addressed the issue by utilising Janitors to provide supervision during the period before school opens, in accordance with The Safety and Supervision of Pupils (Scotland) Regulations 1990 Supervision of Pupils by Janitors (see https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=12337&p=0). Whist this enables headteachers to request that janitors provide supervision before, during and after school, legislation does not appear to make it compulsory - hence why there is such huge variation in practice.

In 2011, my local MSP contacted the Scottish Government on my behalf. The Minister for Children and Young People, Angela Constance MSP, replied stating that the Scottish Government had no intention of amending the relevant legislation at that time.

I subsequently set up a Facebook page called "Keeping our Children Safe at Primary Schools in Aberdeenshire", and through this, identified a matter of nationwide interest and importance. The page name has now been changed to “Keeping our Children Safe at Primary Schools in Scotland”.

Through a series of freedom of information requests this year, I have compiled a list of data regarding individual council policies on early morning playground supervision throughout Scotland, as well as incident statistics at this time of day (where available). I hope this information will highlight to the Public Petitions Committee the considerable variation throughout the country on this matter. The results are attached in a spreadsheet, entitled "Data relating to Early Morning Playground Supervision * at Primary Schools in Scotland".

In summary:

1. Of the 28 councils contacted, only 5 have  a formal policy in place regarding playground supervision in the period before school starts.

2. Where policy is left by councils to the discretion of each head teacher, there is huge variation from just 7% of  Aberdeenshire schools offering early morning playground supervision, to 89% in South Ayrshire.

3. The number of early morning playground incidents (accident/injury, bullying disappearance/wandering off) from 2007-2015, vary significantly from 551 in Argyll & Bute to 11 in Orkney.

North Ayrshire Council's Playground Supervision Policy summarises very well their own assessment of the safety risks to children arriving in the playground before school starts and the justification for implementing a blanket policy on supervision at this time of day. (See https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/267775/response/652241/attach/html/3/Playground%20Supervision%20August%2014.pdf.html).

I believe national legislation based around the same considerations would serve the whole country well and ensure that the safety risks to all primary school children in Scotland are minimised.

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