Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reopening early learning and childcare services

Non-statutory guidance for early learning and childcare (ELC) providers in the local authority, private and third sectors to support a safe reopening of these settings during Phase 3.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reopening early learning and childcare services
Risk assessment and support for specific groups

Risk assessment and support for specific groups

Risk assessment

Employers must protect people from harm.  This includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, children, young people and others from COVID-19 within the education setting. Managers must ensure that risk assessments take place on a setting by setting and individual basis where required.  These are expected to consider all risks identified in respect of COVID-19 and must take account of the relevant guidance from Health Protection Scotland, and the Health and Safety Executive.  The assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus, so that appropriate measures can be put in place to control those risks for everyone.

All risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and as circumstances change. Settings should ensure that they implement pragmatic and proportionate control measures which reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practical level.  They should have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are:

  • effective
  • working as planned
  • updated appropriately considering any issues identified and changes in public health advice

Staff, staff representatives and trade unions should be consulted in the development of risk assessments. Plans and risk assessments should be communicated to parents and all staff. This must include staff who are employed within the service but do not provide direct care to children such as catering or cleaning staff. Support staff have a key role to play in reducing the risk from COVID-19 and it is important that they understand and follow the changes to procedures required to reduce the risk of the spread of infection.

If premises have been closed for many weeks or if parts of the building have been out of use for a long period, the provider must undertake a health and safety check of the building concerned prior to reopening, including water quality sampling for legionella and other bacteria.

Support for Minority Ethnic children, young people and staff

There is some wider evidence that children, young people and adults from a Minority Ethnic background who are infected with COVID-19 seem to be at higher risk of severe disease.  The recent report by the National Records of Scotland on the breakdown of COVID-19 deaths in Scotland by ethnic group, concluded that over the course of the pandemic to date, COVID-19 was a relatively more common cause of death for people in the South Asian ethnic group compared to people in the white ethnic group.  Work is ongoing to build upon these data and to improve understanding.  The Scottish Government continues to work with experts from a range of fields, including our new Ethnicity Expert Reference Group, to develop actions to help mitigate any disproportionate effects. 

The concerns within Minority Ethnic communities must be recognised and individual requests for additional protections should be supported wherever possible.  Responding to requests for additional protections may include offering access to support from occupational health services (OHS) and the provision of individual risk assessments. Providers may wish to have reference to Scottish Government guidance on individual risk assessment for the workplace. Care should be taken to ensure that Minority Ethnic children, young people, families and staff are involved in decisions about additional protections - automatic referrals to OHS should not be made.   Managers should have sensitive, supportive conversations with all Minority Ethnic staff, which also consider their health, safety and psychological wellbeing and personal views and concerns about risk. 

Employers should be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 at all times. All ME staff from South Asian backgrounds with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 55, or who are pregnant, should be individually risk assessed, and appropriate reasonable adjustments should be made following risk assessment

Children and staff who are clinically vulnerable

Clinically vulnerable staff can return to work, following a dynamic risk assessment, and arrangements should be made to enable appropriate physical distancing staying 2 metres away from other adults wherever possible, in line with current advice on the return to ELC. If they have to spend time within 2 metres of other adults, settings must carefully assess and agree with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

Children, and staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding)

The trajectory of the virus has been such that shielding will be paused from 1 August. We expect children and staff who are shielding will be able to return to childcare in August, unless given advice from a GP or healthcare provider not to, and can follow the same guidance as the rest of Scotland. People in this group should refer to the latest advice on the need to shield. This guidance will continue be updated if there are a high number of local cases or there is a need to resume shielding.

Guidance for people with underlying health conditions has been prepared and will continue to be updated (see Staff who have underlying health conditions will wish to be aware of this advice in order to inform discussions with their employer and/or their healthcare team.  Similarly, parents and carers may wish to have a discussion with their child’s healthcare team if they are unsure or have queries about returning to settings because of their health condition.

Local monitoring arrangements will be in place to give early warning of any local increase in infections in the future which could lead to people in the higher risk categories being advised to stay away from setting again for their safety.

Support for children with Additional Support Needs

Every child will have different levels of required support. It will be important as part of the risk assessments carried out to consider the individual needs of a child or young person. Where there is a need to work in close proximity with adults and children the appropriate safety measures should be put in place based on that risk assessment.


First published: 30 Jul 2020 Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 -