Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the community learning and development sector

Guidance to help local authorities, third sector organisations and partners working in Scotland’s schools, colleges and communities to provide community learning and development (CLD) services safely.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the community learning and development sector


COVID-19 protection levels: we have set out plans for a new 5-level system to help tackle the spread of the virus. Read more about the new protection levels, which were introduced from 2 November.

The current guidance requires all CLD services to be delivered remotely until at least 1 February 2021. Face to face support for youth work and adult learning should only be provided in line with this updated guidance.

The Coronavirus (COVID 19): Framework for Decision making: Scotland’s route map though and out of the crisis was published on the 21 May and provides an indication of the order in which the Scottish Government will carefully and gradually seek to lift restrictions. Phases are based on meeting particular criteria including those set by WHO (World Health Organisation). The criteria is used to decide movement between phases with a commitment to review and report every three weeks. While it might be possible to lift some measures more quickly and some may take longer than envisaged, it may also be necessary to reverse some of the measures if circumstances demand.  

This guidance is for the CLD (Community Learning and Development) sector in Scotland which includes youth work, community based adult learning, ESOL, Community Development and Community Engagement. This guidance came into effect on the first day of Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s route map to recovery (9 July 2020) and  has been reviewed regularly whilst easing out of lockdown.

As part of the route map indoor adult learning was permitted to restart on 22  July and youth work from 31 August for the purposes of education, training and the avoidance of harm.

On 23 October, the Scottish Government published its Strategic Framework to best tackle the virus, and protect people, moving to an approach based on five levels of protection. This allows for a rapid and proportionate response to be taken – locally or nationally – using a transparent range of measures and options.

Decisions on which level each part of Scotland will be placed in will be made alongside local health protection teams. The application of different levels in different areas will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

On 19 December 2020, The Scottish Government announced protection measures following scientific advice on a new variant of the virus. A further announcement on 4 January 2021 outlined further protection measures and a requirement to move to remote learning for all services where possible. These measures came into effect one minute after midnight on 5 January 2021  and will be in place until at least 1 February 2021. Further updates to this guidance will be provided as the current situation develops.

In ensuring the safety of the CLD sector, it is expected that this guidance will be applied to complement the legal duties in the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This includes but is not limited to the provisions of suitable control measures, adequate risk assessments and appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision.

Scope of CLD

CLD activity is an essential part of the education system in Scotland. The Scottish Government policy context for the provision of CLD is outlined in the Strategic guidance for community planning partnerships: community learning and development (2012) and the Requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013 (“the CLD Regulations”).

The CLD Regulations are subordinate legislation made under section 2 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (“the 1980 Act”). Section 1 of the 1980 Act requires each local authority to secure adequate and efficient provision in their area of both school education and further education, which in this context includes CLD and is not age limited. Section 2 of the 1980 Act allows the Scottish Ministers to prescribe requirements to which every local authority must conform when discharging its obligations under the 1980 Act.

This guidance does not amount to legal advice. CLD providers, staff, and volunteers may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements. 

The Scottish Government has a long-established commitment to fair work, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC. This has been taken into account in developing this guidance for CLD staff and volunteers. The joint statement was developed by the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Health and Safety Executive and local authorities on safe workplaces. 

This is one of a set of Scottish Government sectoral guidance on safer workplaces applicable as we progress out of lockdown.

The Scottish Government has worked with stakeholders across the CLD sector including youth work, adult learning, community based college provision, CLD Managers Scotland, Education Scotland and the CLD Standards Council for Scotland alongside trade unions and COSLA to ensure that this guidance offers clear expectations and practical approaches to a safe, phased full reopening of CLD services.

This guidance is designed to help employees and employers from local authorities, third sector organisations and partners working in Scotland’s schools, colleges and communities to provide CLD services in accordance with public health advice.

The CLD workforce is made up of staff and volunteers operating in a range of contexts in local authorities, third and voluntary sector organisations, colleges and schools.

Many CLD staff are considered to be key workers and deliver services to the most vulnerable people in Scotland’s communities. The focus of service delivery is likely to change at each level of protection and vary between local authority areas. There are 3 categories of key worker, which are outlined below:

  • category 1 – emergency/COVID-19 related health and care workers; energy suppliers; childcare/learning for other Category 1 staff
  • category 2  - other health and care workers; public sector workers providing emergency or critical welfare services, such as Fire, Police, Prisons, Courts, Social Workers and workers in any of the 13 critical national infrastructure sectors.
  • category 3 – other workers (private, public or third sector) without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to COVID-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised)

Local authorities should evaluate the activities of CLD staff providing services to young people, adults, communities and families and consider if these roles are aligned to the categories described above.

Scottish Government guidance for multi-purpose community facilities was published on 21 December 2020. As CLD activity for youth work and adult learning is an essential part of the education system, community facilities are encouraged to permit access in line with the protection levels outlined in this guidance.

Please consult your own organisation, national body or local authority for more details on specific local guidelines and practices. The CLD workforce is made up of staff and volunteers operating in a range of contexts in local authorities, third and voluntary sector organisations, colleges and schools.

National strategies supported by the Scottish Government in relation to CLD policy include: the National Youth Work Strategy; ESOL Strategy; Adult Literacies in Scotland and the developing Adult Learning Strategy. CLD policy is also key to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.


If you would like to provide feedback or have any questions related to this guidance please email

First published: 31 Jul 2020 Last updated: 5 Jan 2021 -