Purpose and background
Purpose of this guidance
This guidance has been issued in response to the First Minster’s announcement of 19 December 2020 and updated following her statement to Parliament on 4 January 2021. It is intended to provide clarity on arrangements for day care of children (“childcare”) settings during January 2021. The arrangements set out in this guidance are currently expected to be in place until at least 1 February, subject to a further review in mid-January.
This guidance, therefore, supplements the following existing guidance:
Childminding services currently caring for 12 or more children should also follow this guidance, which is intended to supplement
Childminding services caring for fewer than 12 children may continue to operate their setting for all children during this period. There are no additional restrictions placed on childminding services, other than to follow the existing safe operating guidance relevant to their local authority protection level.
This guidance is specifically intended to support childcare settings over the period from 26 December 2020 until 31 January 2021. All aspects of the existing guidance and accompanying mitigations continue to apply while childcare settings are open.
These exceptional arrangements are being put in place as a precautionary measure in light of the latest developments in the path of the virus. A range of previously published evidence has made clear that childcare settings are not high risk environments when the appropriate mitigations and safety measures outlined in the sectoral guidance are implemented, and this remains our judgement – there is to date no evidence that transmission within childcare settings is a significant driver of increasing infection levels.
However, the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 means that reopening childcare settings at this time would not be consistent with a safety-first approach for children and staff. This is because:
- the overall level of community transmission is currently very high. Controlling levels of community transmission plays an important role in ensuring that childcare environments can stay safe, open and welcoming – this approach is reflected in the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 strategic framework protection levels
- evidence about any impact of the new variant on transmission amongst children and young people is still being assessed.
These exceptional arrangements are therefore intended to ensure sufficient time to reduce community transmission and to assess the implications of the new variant of the virus.
It is our intention that childcare settings and schools should be the first places to reopen as we emerge from lockdown, when it is safe to do so.