FOLLOWING further advice given by Public Health Scotland over the weekend, Fife Council have had to make some big changes to the information they had previously given out to parents regarding school meals and other matters.

And the new advice involves the use of some educational establishments in the Cowdenbeath-Lochgelly area.

All schools in the area are currently closed to ALL children.

By today (Tuesday) the local authority will have set up 29 Children’s Activity Centres which can care for children of 'key' workers, if necessary, to enable them to continue working. The Children Activity Centre for Cowdenbeath is Foulford Primary School and Foulford Nursery; for Lochgelly it is Benarty Primary and Benarty Nursery; and for Private and Early Years Provision, it is Noah's Ark Nursery, Auchterderran Road, Lochgelly.

No meals will be prepared in schools this week (other than for those attending Children's Activity Centres). For children registered for free school meals a payment will be received this week.

Payment will be based on those currently registered for FME/school clothing grant. Parents will be sent a letter confirming the bank details the education department holds for them, if these are incorrect parents need to let the council know.

P1-3 payment will be made only to those receiving free school milk. Any P1-3 children who are eligible but not already registered should apply via Parents can find out if they are eligible here also.

Education and Children's Services director, Carrie Lindsay said: “I am writing to parents again to keep you up to date on changes or new information.

"On Free School Meal Entitlement, we had to take the difficult decision on Monday not to open our schools for free school meals. We understand fully the impact that can have on some of our children and the pressure this can put on families who are struggling financially. This decision was taken following advice from Public Health Scotland.

“We have now managed to set up an alternative arrangement. On Wednesday a payment will be made to all families who are already registered for FME/school clothing grant and for any P1-3s registered for free school milk. Check here if you think you might be eligible but not already registered If you have any difficulty accessing or filling in this form, please contact your headteacher/ Online: Contact Council Tax Enquiries online; or call 03451 551155."

On Children’s Activity Centres, Ms Lindsay added: “From Tuesday we will have 29 Children’s Activity Centres set up and open to children of Category 1 key workers. These are frontline, health and care workers, directly supporting coronavirus response or supporting life-threatening, emergency work.

"These centres are there to provide essential childcare for key workers, if they need it, in order for them to continue to work.

"Please be aware, this service is for children where both parents are key workers, or where there is a lone parent who is a keyworker. If parents have any other options for childcare when they are working, they should use these. These centres should be a last resort for parents who have no other choice. You may feel it will be better to keep your children at home.

"You must have already registered with a centre before your child can attend. You will have received a link to the registration form if you are a category1 key worker. If you have any concerns discuss these with your school.

"We have a limited amount of space within our centres as the children need to be in smaller groups and spaced out to keep them safe, but we will be following all public health guidance within our centres. There will be clear instructions for children when they arrive at the centre, on how they can keep themselves and others safe.

"Our centres will only be providing childcare for nursery and primary school children at this time. We will review this over the next few days for other key workers".

For those with Vulnerable children, Ms Lindsay went on: "Children with additional support needs whose parents are both key workers, will be supported within our Children’s Activity Centres.

“Our Children and Families team have been working very closely with our headteachers. They are making sure that all those children who may be especially vulnerable by not attending school will continue to have a member of staff looking out for them. The welfare of our children is a priority at all times and our staff will remain in contact with those children".

And she concluded: "I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our staff for the work they have put in over the last couple of weeks. Many of them have gone above and beyond what should be expected of them – preparing work packs, gathering SQA evidence and above all preparing our activity centres.

“We have had a huge surge of goodwill and support from our staff and we have many volunteers willing to staff these hubs for this first phase. I hope everyone will all support me in thanking them.

“I’d also like to thank all parents for their patience and understanding as we face a new way of living and working."