Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): re-opening schools guide

Non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools in their planning for a safe, phased opening in August 2020.

Key principles

The Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC sets out overarching key principles for a safe, phased return to schools.

The following key principles and requirements are generally relevant to the practical implementation issues covered by this supporting guidance, and should be considered by education authorities and schools:

Scientific and medical advice

Implementation should take full account of scientific and medical advice that it is safe to proceed.


The wellbeing of all pupils and staff should be carefully considered when determining the approach to the reopening of schools at a local level.

Risk assessments

Risk assessments of individual facilities should be undertaken to ensure that health and safety legislation and guidance is fully adhered to. These should be kept simple and accessible. To support this, the ADES Resources network will ensure that examples of good practice risk assessments are shared across education authorities and schools via existing communication channels. The professional associations will also advise of good practice, particularly in the context of legal health and safety requirements, which must be adhered to as always.

Public health measures

As set out in Scotland’s Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools, there should be comprehensive implementation of complementary public health measures whilst, wherever possible, ensuring educational continuity. These include:

Physical distancing, where measures fall into two broad categories:

  • increasing separation
  • decreasing interaction

Key to implementation is that the number of pupils and requisite staff within the school and the available facilities can allow the required physical distancing to be achieved.

  • shielding of extremely high-risk individuals
  • infection prevention and control (hygiene measures) such as enhanced cleaning, respiratory hygiene, handwashing
  • stay at home guidance for people who have symptoms and/or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and their household members (household isolation)
  • adherence to ‘test, trace, isolate and support’ (TTIS or Test and Protect) practices
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate
  • ensuring educational settings know what to do if someone becomes unwell on-site or one or more coronavirus cases occur

Changing delivery of in-person education

Education authorities and schools should review how they deliver educational services, to assist in the provision of high-quality learning and teaching in a positive learning environment. Changes in what facilities are used, whether additional (risk-assessed) facilities can be recruited to increase the number of children who can attend, and how they are used to facilitate physical distancing and hygiene measures are essential. This must include consideration of the entire day including the journeys between home and school and arrival and departure.

Remote learning

Where capacity constraints and/or safety and wellbeing considerations mean that children cannot learn in schools for some or all of the time, appropriate provision should be made for remote learning pursuant to local circumstances. There should be a particular focus on addressing digital exclusion as part of these arrangements. (see digital)

Build on experience

The good practice that has been developed for emergency childcare hubs in each education authority should be carefully considered when implementing this guidance.

Be prepared for change

Consistent with all Scottish Government guidance relating to implementing restrictive measures to combat COVID-19, any form of physical distancing policy within facilities should not be in place for any longer than is necessary. Education authorities should implement measures with a view to being able to ease them as soon as it is safe to do so, to ensure as many children as possible benefit from in-setting learning. They should not enter into long term contracts for things such as use of alternative premises or staffing if these cannot be appropriately amended as the coronavirus situation improves.

Clear communication

Communication and dialogue with all trade unions, staff, parents/carers and pupils on the reopening of schools should be carefully considered when implementing this guidance, to ensure confidence in the revised arrangements across all school users. The channels of communication (existing or otherwise) through which trade unions, staff, pupils and parents/carers can raise concerns about the implementation of safety measures in individual settings should be made clear.