In her day job as a Quality Improvement Officer, Karen works closely with schools around East Lothian.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, her focus has been to play a leading role in first establishing and then overseeing the operation of our six Children’s Hubs – which are providing childcare for key workers and support for vulnerable children.
“After it was announced that all schools in Scotland were to close, we knew the Children’s Hubs had to be established at a pace,” says Karen, who has worked with East Lothian Council for around 20 years.
An early priority for Karen was establishing hubs in each of East Lothian’s six ‘cluster’ areas as well as appropriate staffing arrangements.
“While some of the colleagues who stepped forward to volunteer hadn’t previously worked together, everyone pulled together,” explains Karen.
“We also had to establish an applications process, manage places into the hubs and create registers, as well as working with Children’s Services colleagues to support vulnerable children,” Karen explains.
Prior to the Easter break, more than 300 children had been in attendance across the six hubs. Karen and her colleagues were also able to offer provision during the school holidays with over 150 children involved.
She highlights that a wide range of individuals, teams and partners came forward to help including school senior leaders, teachers, learning assistants, early years practitioners and additional support needs staff, Active Schools staff, administrators. There has also been support from the Outdoor Learning Service, Library Service, Ranger Service, Connected Communities, the Arts Service and the ‘Can Do’ Playscheme. Our Transportation and Facilities Management services have been closely involved.
Karen, whose regular role involves supporting schools with curriculum development, professional learning and self-evaluation, feels that the scale of the challenge she has faced in recent weeks has been unprecedented.
“You learn a bit about yourself in these situations,” she admits. “I might have expected to find the whole experience quite overwhelming, but you plan ahead and take it step by step. It hasn’t been easy but you do adapt to the situation you are working in, rally together and support each other. I’ve been fortunate to work with a really tight-knit team of people on this, drawing together people from across the council.
“I’ve been amazed and impressed. No matter what their role, everybody has understood the importance of playing their part.”
Feedback received across the six Children’s Hubs has been positive.
“Parents and carers have appreciated the support being provided at this difficult time,” Karen says.
“Everyone involved has had the sense that they are part of something which, at a national level, is really very important. I’m proud that we’ve been able to do our bit to serve the community in this way.”
Published: Wednesday, 29th April 2020