Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on re-opening school age childcare services

Non-statutory guidance for school age childcare providers in the local authority, private and third sectors to support a safe re-opening of these settings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on re-opening school age childcare services
Wellbeing, nurture and experiences

Wellbeing, nurture and experiences


As settings re-open, staff will be aware that the pandemic will have had a unique impact on each child and their family, as well as themselves and their colleagues at work. It is important that staff are mindful of keeping the child at the centre of their practice to ensure quality and wellbeing, whilst balancing safety and risk.

Children have the right to play and learn, as set out in Article 31(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life. 

In Scotland, the Government has enshrined children’s right to play outdoors every day in its national Health and Social Care Standards – “As a child, I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment” (HSCS 1.32).

It is essential, at this time of transition, that childhood practice continues to be informed by the principles which underpin high quality provision. While aspects of practice may be delivered differently, practitioners will still be working to meet the needs of children and their families. Practice that reflects the principles of nurture, and the importance of relationships is key to this. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) with its focus on wellbeing, recognises that children and young people have the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them to grow and develop and to have their voices heard. Working in partnership with parents is essential, with two way sharing of information being fundamental to this. The GIRFEC approach is about responding in a meaningful, supportive way which puts the wellbeing of children and families at the heart of any support.

Settings need to be confident that they are providing experiences and sensitive interactions in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces, in ways which best support the needs of children within the context of the recovery period.

High quality play and support in school age childcare services

During the COVID-19 recovery period settings will require to adjust how they provide high quality provision. Some aspects of practice will need to be delivered in different ways to ensure the safety of all. Further information will be published to provide practical support with this. The principles that underpin that high quality however remain unchanged. Best practice will:

  • put the best interests of the child at the heart of decision making;
  • take a holistic approach to the wellbeing of a child;
  • work with children and their families on ways to improve wellbeing;
  • advocate preventative work and early intervention to support children and their families; and
  • believe professionals must work together in the best interests of the child. 

The playwork principles relate specifically to school aged childcare. Principle 1 states that all children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity. It is fundamental to the healthy development and well-being of individuals and communities. According to Principle 5, the role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play. Staff should support children and families to understand the need for the changes and encourage them to help, where possible, to design the delivery of care services.

Physical activity is important for children’s overall health and wellbeing however certain games and activities are not advisable at this time. Consideration should be given to adaptations or alternative activities to ensure children can enjoy their experiences of school age childcare whilst reducing the risk of physical contact. 

Support for anxious children, young people, families and staff

The past few months have been a time of considerable change and there will undoubtedly be moments of anxiety. It will be important to take gradual steps in terms of reintroduction to safe practices and intervention with others. It will be important to phase some of this in through family interaction prior to the return to school age childcare, particularly for children and young people with additional support needs. It will also be vital for relevant services to consider mental health awareness.

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