1. This guidance has been developed to support a safe return to school for all children, young people and staff taking full account of progress made in suppressing COVID-19 in Scotland, the scientific advice received and the advice of the Education Recovery Group and other key stakeholders.
2. In Scotland, as at 19 July 2020, 152 (0.8%) of a total 18,452 positive cases of COVID-19 were among people aged under 15. This is a rate of less than 20 per 100,000 of the population in that age group. There have been no deaths among people under 20 years of age. These data are regularly updated.
3. In the light of this greatly improved situation with regard to suppression of the virus, and in the context of the vital importance of school to a child's development, wellbeing and right to education, the balance of risk is now strongly in favour of children and young people returning to school full-time. This is a positive development that will help address the wider impacts of the virus on the health and wellbeing, educational progress and attainment of our children and young people.
4. It is the Scottish Government's intention that all children and young people, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the autumn term in August so as to benefit once again from all that school brings to their lives. There is increasing concern around the negative impact of school closures on children and young people's wellbeing. The wellbeing of all children, young people and staff should be the central focus when preparing for the reopening of schools.
5. This updated planning assumption reflects the latest scientific evidence and advice and the significant progress that Scotland has made in suppressing the virus. It remains contingent, however, on continuing success in this regard and prevailing public health guidance. The Scottish Government has agreed with partners in the Education Recovery Group that schools will reopen on 11 August. The Scottish Government welcomes local authority decisions which enable children and young people to return to school full-time as quickly and safely as possible, and expects all pupils to be in school full-time by 18 August at the very latest. The Scottish Government will bring forward an Educational Continuity Direction to that effect.
6. The scientific advice that has informed this decision and the development of this guidance was published on 16 July. This updates and builds on an initial summary of key scientific and public health advice published on 26 May 2020.
7. We do not however expect the return to school in August to be a return to normality. We must remain vigilant and continue to manage the risks of COVID-19. This guidance has been designed to help our local authorities and schools to do so, and ensure the safety of children, young people and staff.
8. The guidance applies to all local authorities and schools (primary/secondary/special/school hostels/residential) under their management. Local authorities should ensure that any external organisations involved in delivering services in schools (e.g. contracted facilities management services) are required to follow this guidance. It should also be used by grant-aided schools and independent schools to support their recovery efforts. Please read the supplementary guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities, developed in partnership with relevant stakeholders. COVID-19 guidance for colleges may also be relevant to some.
9. Recognising its specific context, separate guidance for the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and childcare sector has been developed. There is also specific guidance for childminders and for "Out of school care". Guidance for youth work and the Community Learning and Development Sector is also available.
10. Nothing in this guidance affects the legal obligations of local authorities with regard to health and safety, public health and their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Local authorities must continue to adhere to all such duties when implementing this guidance. Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, they must have regard to the advice relating to coronavirus from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.
11. Local authorities and schools should exercise their judgement when implementing this guidance, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children, young people and staff taking into account local circumstances. Where this guidance states that local authorities and schools:
- "should" do something, there is a clear expectation, agreed by all key partners, that it should be done.
- "may" or "may wish" to do something, the relevant sections have been included as examples of relevant practice that can be considered if appropriate. Local variations are likely.
12. Changes in incidence of COVID-19, and the impact of implementation of this guidance in schools, will be closely monitored at the national and local level. The guidance will be kept under review and updated when necessary. Local authorities and schools will also need to be able to adapt to local issues, e.g. outbreaks or local increases in cases of COVID-19, and follow any locally-determined advice and guidance.