Physical distancing measures
The Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC states that it is not appropriate for young children or for some children with additional support needs to maintain the models of physical distancing that would be suitable for older children in a school setting, either practically or in terms of child development. It is not desirable or possible to implement strict physical distancing between young children or between a young child and their childminder, or the childminder’s own children.
It is important for children to feel secure, and receive warmth and physical contact that is appropriate to their needs, in particular when they are receiving personal care. Childminders and assistants will need to be close to the children, particularly young children and should feel confident in this. In relation to older children, childminders should take account of the guidance for school-age childcare settings and physical distancing between adults and children contained within.
In consultation with families, childminders should consider reducing risks in other ways, by limiting access to their home for parents or carers where possible.
Learning from outbreaks across a range of sectors suggests that lapses in adherence to physical distancing can occur when adults mix outside or in other social areas. All adults, childminders and any assistants, should be reminded that the requirement to physically distance applies at all times, including during breaks and before and after sessions and traveling to and from the setting. The only exception to this is for adults who live in the same household, have formed an extended household in accordance with the guidance or where there are health and safety reasons why they have to come within 2 metres of each other.
In addition, adults who reside in the childminder setting and are not an assistant should physically distance from adults and children from different households in the childminding setting, where possible. This will reduce likelihood of direct transmission. The latest physical distancing advice should be checked regularly for updates.
It is important that children’s needs are the deciding factor in these arrangements. While adults from different households should practice physical distancing, this is not always possible - for example, when young children are passed between adults at drop-off and pick-up times. Where close contact between two adults occurs, the childminder or assistant should ensure that the amount of time that childminders or their assistants spend in close proximity with parents or carers is minimised, that face coverings are worn by adults during a physical handover and that they thoroughly wash their hands after contact.
Childminders and parents or carers should agree staggered drop off and collection times to minimise contact between families wherever possible.
Parents/carers should be discouraged from gathering outside the setting and should maintain distancing of 2 metres, as far as practicable, when dropping off their children. Appropriate markings may be introduced outside the entrance to the setting.
Visitors to the setting
Visits to the setting should be avoided unless necessary. This includes for example contractors, deliveries etc. Adult visitors to the setting should be strictly limited only to those that are necessary to support children or the running of the setting and arrangements should be communicated clearly to any assistants. Other authorised visitors will include the Care Inspectorate who have a legal duty to undertake scrutiny work.
Telephone calls, online meetings and ‘virtual’ visits should be the norm for regular and other meetings with specialists and parents. However, where it may be in the best interests of children for a specialist or parent or carer to attend in person, this should be considered on a case by case basis, for example in relation to child protection issues or where a parent has a disability which affects communication over the telephone or online.
When face to face communication is essential, ensure that the physical distancing guidance is adhered to and appropriate risk assessments are in place. Consider whether essential face to face communication could take place outdoors. If it takes place indoors, ensure that the meeting space is well ventilated, face coverings are worn and that there is a supply of antibacterial hand gel available to visitors at the entrance to the setting.
Additional arrangements for sharing information with families should be agreed to ensure that clear lines of communication are available where face to face contact is being reduced, for example this might include (where appropriate) video messaging, phone calls or text messages, photographs or email. When settings communicate using these additional measures they must also consider the General Data Protection regulations (GDPR), and consider updating their existing privacy policies where necessary.
The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues has provided updated advice on the use of face coverings, in light of the latest scientific evidence and the advice of the World Health Organisation, which was published on 22nd August 2020. A further update was published on 30 October 2020. The advice notes that the volume of evidence supporting the initial scientific position on a key benefit of face coverings (protection of others from infection by the wearer) has grown. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that the wearer of a face covering can to some extent be protected.
Considering the changed position on infection and transmission rates in the community, the evidence and experience of settings re-opening between August and October 2020, and recent scientific evidence, the Sub-Group strengthened its advice on face coverings in settings in 2020 to manage the main area of risk within education settings, which is adult to adult transmission. The guidance on face coverings was reviewed again by the Sub-Group on 9 February 2021 to support planning for return to early learning and childcare for all children. The Sub-Group concluded that no change was required but that the need for compliance with the existing guidance should be strongly reinforced.
Face coverings must be worn by adults wherever they cannot maintain a 2 m distance from other adults who are not in their own household (e.g. in corridor and communal areas), except where a person is exempt from wearing a covering.
Face coverings are only one of the measures to suppress COVID-19 and these should not be used to substitute the other measures needed to contain the virus. Therefore, when wearing a face covering, good hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing between adults should still be required.
Face coverings should be worn by parents and other essential visitors to the setting (when entering the building or otherwise), and should be strongly encouraged when parents/carers are drop-off and pick-up their children and childminders and assistants who do school pick-up.
Face coverings are not required when working directly with children, including on the floor or supporting children to move around the building or with toileting, or as a result of being less than 2 m distant from children. However, any assistants or childminder who wish to wear a face covering in these circumstances should be supported to do so.
Where local decisions on the strengthened use of face coverings are made, it will remain vitally important to consider the potential impact on children and young people.
To support this, adults must also maintain a 2m distance from other adults when working together with groups of children.
Coverings should also be worn by childminders, assistants and visitors when not working directly with children, for example when in hallways, toilets and kitchens (except when dining) and other confined communal areas when 2 metre distancing cannot be maintained, except where a person is exempt from wearing a covering or the adults in the setting are part of the same household.
Where local decisions on the strengthened use of face coverings are made, it will remain vitally important to consider the potential impact on children. Some children may need additional support/reassurance about the reasons for adults wearing face coverings. The wellbeing and needs of the child should remain a focus of attention.
The use of face coverings could have an impact for babies and young children, especially those with additional support needs (which includes any level of hearing loss). These impacts should be carefully considered as the ability to see a person’s face clearly contributes to babies and young children’s communication and understanding. This is particularly important for children with hearing loss, children who are acquiring English and who rely on visual cues to enable them to be included in learning. With this in mind, the wearing of transparent face coverings might be considered appropriate in some situations.
It is not recommended that children aged 5 and under wear face coverings in an ELC setting. However, children, like adults, wishing to wear a face covering in any part of the setting should be permitted to do so.
Clear instructions must be provided to staff on how to put on, remove, store and dispose of face coverings in all of the circumstances above, to avoid inadvertently increasing the risks of transmission. The key points are as follows:
- face coverings must not be shared with others.
- before putting on or removing the face covering, hands should be cleaned by washing with soap and water or hand sanitiser if handwashing facilities are not available.
- make sure the face covering is the right size to cover the nose, mouth and chin.
- when temporarily storing a face covering (e.g. during sessions), it should be placed in a washable, sealed bag or container. Avoid placing it on surfaces, due to the possibility of contamination.
- re-usable face coverings should be washed after each day of use at 60 degrees centigrade or in boiling water.
- disposable face coverings must be disposed of safely and hygienically. They are not considered to be clinical waste in the same way that used PPE may be.
Settings should follow the current public advice that recommends that face coverings are made of cloth or other textiles and should be at least two, and preferably three, layers thick and fit snugly while allowing you to breathe easily.
The Scottish Government continually reviews the current policy position on face coverings in light of emerging scientific evidence and advice. It remains the Scottish Government’s judgement that face coverings provide adequate protection for use in the community and in most workplaces because they are worn in addition to taking other measures, such as physical distancing.
There should be regular messaging to adults about these instructions, with a clear expectation that face coverings are worn in the relevant areas except for those who are exempt.
Larger childminder settings – minimising children’s contacts
In response to the new variant of concern, larger childminding settings – those caring for 12 or more children – have been required to limit attendance to only children of key workers or vulnerable children. These settings can plan to welcome all children of pre-school age from the 22 February 2021. However, they must continue to restrict attendance by school age children in accordance with the supplementary guidance.
Reducing the number of interactions that children and childminders or assistants have is a key part of reducing risk in settings. Limiting interactions will reduce the overall number who need to isolate in the event of a child or childminder becoming ill with COVID-19, and allow for more effective contact tracing through Test and Protect.
Larger childminding services should consider carefully how to apply the principles in this section to their settings to support childcare needs and to allow children to access a full range of experiences.
Contacts should be limited by managing children within groups. Consistency of groups is beneficial, and efforts should be made to keep children within the same groups for the duration of the day or session, where possible.
Childminding settings should apply proportionate, risk-based approaches to limiting contacts, adapted to the specific circumstances of the setting. Given the limited size of a childminding setting it may not be appropriate or necessary to operate in groups. Where used, the general approach should be to minimise the size of groups and keep them consistent where practically possible, taking into account the feasibility of doing this while delivering a rich experience for children, and meeting parents’ childcare needs.
Individual childminders should consider this guidance as a whole and the guidance for ELC settings and Out of School Care settings on minimising contact between groups of children, in determining their approach.
Where groups are established they should work with the same childminder or assistant, where practicable, throughout the session.
Just as reducing the number of interactions that children and childminders have is a key part of reducing risk in settings, so too is reducing the number of interactions that childminders and assistant have with each other.
When agreeing working patterns, services are encouraged to maintain as much consistency as possible in the staff who work in close proximity, especially in areas where physical distancing is more challenging. While this may not always be possible, having the same groups of staff working together consistently across each week will reduce the risk of transmission among staff. It will also help to limit the number of staff who might need to self-isolate through Test and Protect.
In practice we understand that there are times when another childminder or assistant may need to provide cover for children of other groups. However, this should be for limited periods and physical distancing between adults from different households must be maintained. Childminders and assistants should ensure hygiene practices are carried out if they are caring for different groups of children. Depending on the delivery model and attendance pattern of children a childminder or assistant may care for more than one group of children over the week.
Children are not required to physically distance from each other, or from adults. It is important for children to feel secure and receive warmth and physical contact that is appropriate to their needs, in particular when they are receiving personal care, need comforting or reassurance. Childminders will need to be close to the children, particularly young children, and should feel confident to do so.
Children who require additional support should be cared for in line with their personal plan which should be kept under review as public health measures evolve.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The use of PPE by adults within childminding services should continue to be based on a clear assessment of risk and need for an individual child or young person, such as personal care where childminders or their assistants come into contact with blood and body fluids. Following any risk assessment (individual or organisational) where the need for PPE has been identifiedHSE Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work should be readily available and staff should be trained on its use as appropriate. Where the use of PPE is risk assessed as being required, staff should be trained in how to put on and take off PPE (as required by Health and Safety Regulations), and suitable waste facilities provided.
Risk assessments must be mindful of the additional distress that children might experience due to measures introduced such as the use of face coverings or PPE due to COVID-19, and the need for continued protection of staff. If for any reason, risk assessments are not in place, then they must be undertaken swiftly in accordance with this guidance and local risk assessment guidance
No additional PPE measures are required for general use where school aged children attend a childminding setting. Childminders and assistants should continue to follow existing guidance on the use of PPE. Examples of this include:
- staff carrying out intimate care should wear an apron and gloves.
- staff should have access to disposable single use gloves for spillage of blood or other body fluids and disposing of dressings or equipment. Local infection control procedures that outline safety and protocols should be stringently followed and adequate training provided. This includes procedures for putting on and taking off PPE, the disposal of soiled items; laundering of any clothes, including uniform and staff clothing, towels or linen; and cleaning equipment for children and young people, such as hoists and wheelchairs.
- hand hygiene is essential before and after all contact with a child receiving intimate or personal care, before putting on PPE, after removal of PPE and after cleaning equipment and the environment. Hands should be washed with soap and water.
In cases of suspected COVID-19, use of PPE should be based on risk assessment. Risk assessments must be consider all factors affecting the protection of staff and children including any additional distress and impact on wellbeing of child. The following use of PPE may be considered:
- a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn if looking after a child who has become unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and 2m physical distancing cannot be maintained while doing so.
- gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn by the childminder and any assistants if a child or young person becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 that they need direct personal care.
- eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.
- gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning the areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been.
Specific guidance COVID-19: guidance for first responders has been developed and published for first responders who, as part of their normal roles, provide immediate assistance requiring close contact until further medical assistance arrives. This guidance sets out clearly what a first responder is required to do if they come into close contact with someone as part of their first responder duties. It covers the use of PPE and CPR.
Where the use of PPE is being considered within a setting the specific conditions of each individual setting must be taken into consideration and comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 and the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 which outlines the process of, and legal requirements for, risk assessment.
If a child, childminder or assistant becomes ill
Childminding settings should ask staff and parents and carers to be vigilant for the symptoms of COVID-19, and to understand what actions they should take if someone develops them, either onsite or offsite. The key COVID symptoms are:
- new continuous cough
- fever/high temperature
- loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).
It is essential that people do not attend a setting if symptomatic. Everyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate straight away, stay at home and arrange a test via the appropriate method (see below).
All assistants and parents and carers should be advised that anyone with these symptoms, or who has had contact with a family/community member with these symptoms, should not attend or should be asked to return home. They should also be told to follow Test and Protect procedures. Childminders who develop these symptoms should make arrangements for the children in the setting to be taken home, and should arrange to be tested themselves.
All adults working in childminding settings should follow up to date health protection advice on household or self- isolation and Test and Protect procedures if they or someone in their household exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have been identified by NHS contact tracers as a close contact of someone with the virus. Guidance on this is available from NHS Inform, Parent Club and gov.scot.
The National Clinical Director has also written an open letter to parents and carers providing guidance on how COVID-19 symptoms differ from those of other infections circulating at this time of year. Some of the key points to ensure that parents, carers and staff are aware of are as follows:
- it is essential that people do not attend a setting if symptomatic.
- everyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough; fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste - must self-isolate straight away, stay at home and arrange a test via the appropriate method (see below).
- people who live in the same household as a person with symptoms must also self-isolate straight away and stay at home. Only those developing COVID-19 symptoms should be tested.
- if the test is positive, the person must remain in isolation until 10 days from symptom onset, or longer if symptoms persist or 10 days from the test date if there are no symptoms. The rest of the household must remain in isolation for 10 days from symptom onset in the symptomatic person, even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. These people should not attend childminding settings. The date of onset of symptoms (or of test, if asymptomatic) is to be considered day 1 of 10.
- everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be put in touch with the local contact tracing team so that other close contacts can be identified. All close contacts who are in the same household as confirmed cases must self-isolate immediately.
- everyone who needs to self-isolate as close contacts of confirmed cases must continue to do so for 10 days from their last day of exposure to the case, even if they have a negative test result. In a household, the 10 days starts on the date of symptom onset in the first case.
- unless otherwise advised by Test and Protect or local Incident Management Teams, where children or staff do not have symptoms but are self-isolating as a close contact of a person who is a confirmed case, other people in their household will not be asked to self-isolate along with them.
If a child develops symptoms of COVID-19 while in the setting, a ventilated space must be available for the child to wait in until they can be collected by their parent. Where space allows, you should prevent contact with any other children in the setting. Ensure that guidance on the use of PPE is followed. Care must be taken however to ensure the appropriate levels of supervision of all children. Read the advice on what to do if someone is symptomatic.
Childminders can book a test through www.nhsinform.scot or, if they cannot get online, by calling 0800 028 2816. Parents and carers can book a test on a child’s behalf.
Unless childminders are symptomatic or are advised to get a test by a healthcare professional, then testing is not a requirement.
Communications and settling-in
Additional arrangements for sharing information between the childminder and the families should be agreed to ensure that clear lines of communication are available where face to face contact is being reduced, for example this might include appropriate, video calls, voice calls, text messages, photographs or email. It is important that when childminder settings communicate that they also consider the General Data Protection regulations (GDPR) and consider updating their existing privacy policies where necessary.
A childminder may wish to provide a virtual tour of their home to parents prior to the child attending for the first time. Wherever possible, children should be settling into the service in a garden area with the parent or carer away from other children. It is important that relationships are developed and the settling in period is the foundation of that trusting relationship between the family and childminder. It is important to maintain physical distancing between adults and the childminder should consider how best to introduce a new child into the setting with limited physical contact between adults wherever possible.
Education Scotland have developed two resources to support transitions during COVID restrictions: Transitions in 2020 and the Wakelet on Supporting young children at points of transition.
For children with additional support needs, childminders should work in partnership with parents, lead professionals, children and young people to establish what support and plans need to be put in place to meet their needs. Enhanced transitions may be considered for children with additional support needs, such as through visual representations and plans of physical distancing in their settings.
Childminders may wish to consider the following approaches:
- a map could be displayed in the setting detailing entry/exit points and new circulation patterns, for use by adults and parents.
- social stories and videos shared with children in advance to explain what will be new, and what the day will be like.
- drawing on learning from the retail sector, clear signage and colour coding on walls and floors could be implemented prior to return to help with wayfinding.
- appropriate visuals will be particularly important for children. These will need to be clear and child friendly to enable them to be understood by as many children as possible taking account of any visual impairments children may have. These could include signs that display meaningful pictures or symbols. Any signage that involves direct interaction from children will need to be cleaned regularly and additional methods of communication should also be considered.
Settings should ensure that risk assessments are updated appropriately for the autumn/winter period, to consider issues around ventilation and heating/warmth that are relevant to their specific environments. They should consider areas of the setting where air flow (including pockets of stagnant air in occupied spaces) and/or temperature may be problematic, and the strategies that may be used to address these issues and mitigate risks appropriately.
The primary effective method of increasing natural ventilation remains the opening of external doors, vents and windows.
To help prevent the spread of infection, wherever possible rooms children access should be well ventilated. The opening of doors and windows should be encouraged to increase natural ventilation where it is practical, safe and secure to do so, and appropriate internal temperatures can be maintained. Fire Safety should always be considered before any internal doors are held open. This will help to increase the natural ventilation and will reduce physical contact with door handles.
Internal fire doors should never be held open (unless assessed and provided with appropriate hold open and self-closing mechanisms which respond to the actuation of the fire alarm system).
Use of outdoor space
Evidence shows that the use of the outdoors is good for our overall health and wellbeing and outdoor environments can limit transmission of the virus. Where childminders have access to a garden, they should try to use this space as much as possible across the day but are not required to operate outside for the whole day.
Childminders should take the necessary precautions to protect children from the elements. This should include suitable clothing.
Trips outside the childminding settings
Trips outside the home are permissible and encouraged providing they are in line with the latest general public guidance on physical distancing and travelling distances set out in the Strategic Framework. Childminders should plan for children to enjoy active energetic play across the day and this may include making use of other areas near to the childminder’s home such as nearby green spaces, taking account of the most up to date physical distancing guidelines.
Outdoor play parks are also open. Childminders must follow the latest guidance on exercise and activity.
Recommendations for use of shared resources such as play areas and libraries where children are more likely to mix with others continue to be reviewed and therefore the latest advice should be checked regularly for any updates.
For the purposes of guidance on numbers and management of children, each registered childminding setting must be considered separately. Childminders should continue to operate their business within the number of registered places as usual with no restriction to the number of families that can attend. Should a childminder wish to meet up with another childminder and their children then the social meeting guidance applies, with all households and individuals involved counting towards the current limits set by that guidance.