Coronavirus (COVID-19): Early learning and childcare expansion monthly update -March 2022

Monthly update on our work expanding and improving early learning and childcare provision in Scotland.

Introduction from Alison Cumming, Director for Early Learning and Childcare

Hello and welcome to our March update.

I hope everyone is feeling the benefit of the first signs of Spring and some much-needed light after a challenging winter.

I would like to draw your attention to the new £9.8 million Childcare Sector Omicron Impacts Fund, which will be open for applications from 2pm on Tuesday 8 March to the end of the day on Thursday 17 March. We have been working closely with the childcare sector representative bodies to make the case for dedicated business support funding for the childcare sector in recognition of the vital public service you provide and the acute impacts you continue to experience as the pandemic progresses. I know  that you and your staff continue to go above and beyond to ensure continuity and quality of provision for families. I hope that these one-off grants will help ease some of the financial challenges felt by the sector and I would encourage everyone to apply.

On 22 February, the Scottish Government published Scotland's Strategic Framework update, setting out a staged approach to help Scotland manage and recover from the pandemic. For now, childcare staff should follow the existing sector guidance alongside guidance for the general public which is outlined in the COVID-19 Guidance section.

I would also like to draw your attention to the Scottish Government’s Business Ventilation Fund which remains open to applications from daycare of children services in the private and voluntary sectors. The eligibility criteria has been updated to include business in the sector and is aimed at supporting providers address ventilation issues. Full details on eligible spend and applications are available on the Scot Gov website.

As we recover from the pandemic and COVID-19 mitigations ease, we are reviewing the format and frequency of these Early Learning and Childcare COVID-19 monthly updates. If you have any feedback you would like to share about these updates, please contact us.

I hope you find this month’s update informative and helpful. 

Best wishes


Previous editions of the ELC COVID-19 update.

COVID-19 Guidance

Strategic Framework for COVID-19

On 22 February 2022 the Scottish Government published an update to Scotland's Strategic Framework, setting out a new staged approach to easing protective measures to help Scotland manage and recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In this next phase the Scottish Government’s approach is to manage COVID-19 primarily through public health advice, vaccination and treatment rather than legal restrictions.

The First Minister has set out that:

Current legal requirements on the use of face coverings, the collection of customer details for contact tracing purposes, and for businesses, service providers and places of worship to have regard to guidance on COVID and to take reasonably practicable measures set out in the guidance are expected to be lifted on 21 March, subject to the state of the pandemic.

Access to lateral flow and PCR tests will continue to be free of charge, ahead of a detailed transition plan being published on the future of Scotland’s test and protect programme in March. We will be considering separately advice for testing in schools and ELC settings, in line with expert input. 

From now until further notice, ELC staff should follow the existing guidance for the sector alongside that which applies for the general public:

if you have COVID symptoms, you should continue to go for a PCR test. Access to these tests remains free of charge at testing sites across the country;

you should continue to make regular use of lateral flow tests even if you don’t have symptoms, and continue to test twice weekly at home;

the only immediate change we are making to current arrangements on lateral flow testing for the general population is in our advice on the frequency of testing. Instead of advice to test before going anywhere to mix with others, from Monday 28 February everyone will be advised to test at least twice a week, and in particular if you are going to a crowded place or mixing with someone who is clinically vulnerable;

people who test positive for COVID-19 will continue to be asked to self-isolate to reduce the risk of infecting other people. Any changes to the recommended period of self-isolation will be considered on an ongoing basis.

COVID-19 guidance for ELC, school age childcare and childminding services

In line with advice from the World Health Organisation and elsewhere, one of our top priorities has been, and will remain, to keep ELC settings open and safe, and to ensure continuity of the care, education and support they provide to children, families and communities. The COVID-19 safety guidance for ELC settings, school-age childcare and childminding services is being kept under close review based on advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, through consultation with the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) and other stakeholder groups.

We are reviewing that guidance, and the measures set out within it, to ensure that they support a strategic move over time to managing rather than suppressing the virus, and that they support the best possible outcomes for children. Appropriate and proportionate protective measures that are aligned with those across society that reflect the current level of risk posed by the virus will continue to be required.

We are engaging with public health experts, staff, parents and representative bodies in working through what those measures should look like and to minimise the operational and educational impacts, while keeping children and staff safe.

Our intention is to have a simplified and streamlined suite of COVID-19 guidance for ELC settings, school-age childcare and childminding services to enable a more ‘normal’ ELC experience for staff, children and families as the virus becomes endemic.  We will keep providers informed of updates to the guidance suite through these provider notices.


Childcare Sector Omicrons Impacts Fund

On 28 February the Scottish Government set out further details on the Childcare Sector Omicron Impacts Fund, which will open for applications at 2pm on Tuesday 8 March 2022. The Scottish Government is making up to £9.8 million available through the Fund to provide one-off grants to childcare providers this financial year. These will be available to all private and third sector day care of children services and all childminding services who were registered with the Care Inspectorate on 31 December 2021. The one-off grants are being made available in recognition of the challenging circumstances in which childcare sector providers have been operating during the Omicron wave.

Level of grant support available

Grant amounts will vary according to the registered size (Care Inspectorate registered places) of each service, ranging from £950 to £4,500. Grant levels across each size band are set out in the table below. Only one grant is available per registered service. Providers with multiple services can claim a grant for each of their eligible registered services.

Care Inspectorate Registered Places

Grant Amount













Applying for a grant

Drawing on the previous approaches to delivering targeted financial support to the childcare sector during the pandemic, the Fund is being delivered through two separate application routes (and will in effect operate as two separate funds).

Omicron Impacts Fund – Day Care of Children and Large (11 or more registered places) Childminding Services

Applications from private and third sector day care of children services, and childminding services with 11 or more registered places, will be made through the bisaccount single secure online application platform. Grant applications will then be processed by local authorities.

This is the same approach that was used to previously deliver grant support to the majority of these services through the Transitional Support Fund (in Autumn 2020) and the Temporary Restrictions Fund (in early 2021).

All eligible services will receive a link to the Fund application page ahead of it going live on 8 March.

Omicron Impacts Fund – Childminding Services

Childminding services with a registered capacity of between 1 and 10 places are eligible for a grant of £950. These services should apply through a separate secure online application platform provided by Creative Scotland. Grant applications will then be processed by the Scottish Government. This process will, to a large extent, replicate the approach used to deliver the Childminding Business Sustainability Fund in March 2021.

All childminding services with a registered capacity of 1-10 places will receive a link to the Fund application page ahead of it going live. If you have not received this information by 2pm on 8 March 2022 then please contact

Deadline for submitting applications

Eligible services can apply for a grant between 2pm on 8 March 2022 and until the end of 17 March 2022.

More information on the Fund can be found on our webpage.


Pilot Programme of Business Gateway Support for School Age Childcare Providers and Childminding Services

The Scottish Government have provided funding to enable Business Gateway to offer an initial programme of webinars and support sessions for school age childcare providers and childminders in February and March 2022.

This is being delivered as a pilot programme, comprising webinars and consultation sessions, to test the suitability of elements of the current Business Gateway offer for the childcare sector.

This progresses the first part of an action set out in the Financial Sustainability Health Check to support providers to adapt their business models in order to support their long-term sustainability, and to respond to potential changes in the nature of demand for different types of childcare provision. The learning from this pilot will inform the development of a wider programme of support for the sector in 2022-23 aimed at helping childcare providers strengthen their financial sustainability and their capacity to respond to future changes in the sector.

This initial programme of support was made available to registered private and third sector day care of children services who are delivering school age childcare and to registered childminding services. These services were identified in the Financial Sustainability Health Check as being most likely to be experiencing significant concerns regarding their sustainability.

Some of the webinar sessions have been recorded to allow those unable to attend to access the information. These sessions will be made available soon.

Business Gateway offer support and advice to businesses throughout the year, and have a number of learning products available on their web site. Please contact your local Business Gateway service for more information or the Business Gateway web site.

Contact: or

Workforce and Professional Learning

Place2be have created a free online Mental Health Champions Foundation programme, providing an opportunity for professionals to enhance their understanding of children’s mental health and approaches.   This is a 5- week programme, delivering 1–1.5 hours of learning and development per week, at a time convenient for the learner.

Registrations are now open for the course beginning in May 2022. Full details including how to register, are on Place2Be’s website.


Workforce wellbeing

We are conscious of the challenging circumstances that colleagues have been working under throughout the pandemic period and the difficulties posed by the most recent Omicron wave. It’s important that colleagues take time to look after themselves and each other and we hope to be helpful in providing support to do just that. We have therefore developed a further series of free, online wellbeing events for all childcare professionals. The events run from now until the end of March and will take place at a range of times to suit you.

Feedback from previous events has been extremely positive and the events will provide colleagues with a self-care toolkit, including practical advice and tips on looking after yourself. You can book yourself on to one of these events, or have a look at videos of previous events, at the TeamELCWellbeingHub.


SSSC Equality Data

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is asking all registered workers to update their equality information through their MySSSC account.

By providing your up-to-date equalities information, the SSSC will get a better understanding of the diversity and unique needs of people working in this sector which will help the SSSC to meet workers’ needs, including improving how they design processes and systems and develop skills and learning resources.  More information and update your details at your MySSSC account.

Contact: scott.sutherland@gov.scott

Testing and vaccination communications toolkit updates

We are grateful to providers and service managers for your support in sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination with staff and for giving staff time off work to get their vaccine and to recover when that it is needed. We are also grateful for your support in encouraging staff to test regularly and record their results. 

On 2 February we published the Coronavirus (COVID-19): childcare sector toolkit including materials to continue encouraging colleagues to take up the vaccine, including booster jabs, as well as regular LFD testing and reporting of results on the online portal.

To make reporting test results a little easier and quicker, we have developed a leaflet featuring a QR code which leads directly to the portal for reporting results. A digital copy of the leaflet has been added to the online communications toolkit, which can be printed off and distributed to staff.

Feedback from stakeholders across the childcare sector has also highlighted that there continue to be concerns amongst staff about the effects of COVID vaccination when pregnant or trying to become pregnant. We have now added the leaflet COVID-19 vaccine information about pregnancy and breastfeeding from Public Health Scotland to the toolkit which includes advice on fertility. It is worth highlighting that “there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect fertility in women or men. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy.”

Get into Summer Evaluation

Get into Summer was a package of support, backed by £20 million of Scottish Government funding, to support children and young people to socialise, play and reconnect over the summer break of 2021. This summary report presents key findings from the evaluation, clearly setting out its benefits to children, young people and their families and the real diversity of provision on offer across Scotland.

The evaluation report is based on information from an independent qualitative evaluation carried out by Ipsos MORI including interviews with parents and analysis of local authorities and service providers, as well as quantitative estimates of reach collected through a national representative survey amongst parents. Please do circulate these amongst your networks for information.

Many positive outcomes from children's participation in activities were identified including: greater opportunities to play and socialise with other children, an increase in physical activity, more time spent outdoors and an improvement in health and wellbeing. Food and childcare provision were also important elements, particularly for low income families.

For some parents and carers participation had also made them aware of other services that might be useful to them or their child and others reported increased opportunities to meet other parents in their area. There was a very strong appetite for more investment in similar provision in the future.

The report further outlines some barriers for consideration at the planning stage of the 2022 summer offer, particularly in terms of accessibility, marketing and ensuring effective inclusion of children with diverse needs.


Education Scotland

Successful Approaches to Learning Outdoors

Schools and education settings across Scotland are increasingly using outdoor learning, according to a new report published by Education Scotland. This national report on outdoor learning is intended to celebrate the achievements and successes in Scottish education that are taking place even during an extremely challenging period when settings, schools and services are managing COVID-19.

You can keep up to date with all of Education Scotland’s news and events and subscribe to their regular e-bulletin ‘Scotland Learns’.


Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board                                                                    

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board has been formed to continue to progress the aims of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme Board. The Board is overseeing reform across relevant areas of education, health, community and children’s services and wider areas that impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. The Board’s focus is on prevention and early support as well as promotion of good mental health and the services children, young people and their families’ access.

There are eight ‘deliverables’ and Task and Finish groups have been established to take this work forward. One of the Task and Finish groups will consider what is currently available and what is required in the future to support the mental health and wellbeing of 3-5 year olds across Scotland, and produce recommendations for further action.

We know that for the recommendations we produce to be meaningful, then they have to be in line with what children and families want and need. With the expansion of government funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), most children 3-5 years now spend a significant proportion of their time with ELC staff. That is why, the group agreed that we would like to hear the voices and views of young children, parents/carers and the ELC workforce.


Arrangements under the current Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme will continue until 31 March 2022

From 1 April a new national interim, higher and combined rate for milk, non-dairy alternatives and healthy snack will take effect pending a full consultation on a longer-term scheme. The interim national rate will be a combined rate to cover a serving of milk or a non-dairy alternative, and a portion of fruit and vegetables. Revised guidance will be issued in advance of 1 April to outline the national interim rate and what it means for settings and local authorities delivering the Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme. 


Forward look calendar

Date: 8 March
Event: STEM in the North 2021-22 - Play pedagogy in STEM - Education Scotland
Information: Focussing on upper primary and early secondary, Education Scotland will explore how STEM can be the vehicle for continuing play pedagogy. This series is focussed on STEM in the North and is aimed at all practitioners within the Northern Alliance region.

Date: 15 and 16 March Tax-Free Childcare webinar for all types of childcare and OOSC providers Tickets, Wed 16 Mar 2022 at 18:30 | Eventbrite
Event: Tax-Free Childcare webinar for all types of childcare and OOSC providers
Information: This 90-minute ZOOM webinar will be useful for all types of approved or registered providers if you provide childcare services for children aged 0-11 years (up to 17 years if disabled). The webinar is designed to raise awareness of TFC and increase understanding of it.

Date: 16 March
Event: SAC Wee Blether - Scottish Council of Deans of Education - Attainment Challenge Project - Education Scotland
Information: In this SAC Wee Blether, you will have the opportunity to discuss ways in which you are supporting Initial Teacher Education students and Newly Qualified Teachers in leading equity and closing the poverty related attainment gap. Key messages from research conducted by the Scottish Council of Deans of Education will be shared.

Date: 23 March
Event: Strategies for engaging with non-traditional families - Education Scotland
Information: This session will explore Brookings’ Strategy Landscape, a conceptual framework for developing and assessing family engagement strategies and provide practice examples of strategies to engage with non-traditional families from Brookings’ Strategy Finder tool.

Date: 25 March
Event: From poverty to flourishing - Education Scotland
Information: National conference for educationalists interested in psychology, research and making a difference to the lives of children and young people. Sharing of research and practice from educational psychology profession around improving outcomes for children and young people affected.

Date: Multiple dates in March
Event: Online Wellbeing Events for everyone in Childcare - Early Years Scotland
Information: This workshop will provide attendees with the knowledge, skills and understanding to support them to begin to have powerful wellbeing conversations within a team environment.

Date: 9 May
Event: Mental Health Champions Foundation programme
Information: Place2be have created a free online Mental Health Champions Foundation programme, providing an opportunity for professionals to enhance their understanding of children’s mental health and approaches. This is a 5- week programme, delivering 1–1.5 hours of learning and development per week, at a time convenient for the learner. Registrations are now open for the course beginning in May 2022. Full details including how to register, can be found on Place2Be’s website.

Date: 21 and 22 September 2022
Event: Scottish Learning Festival (SLF)
This year Education Scotland will be celebrating 20 years of SLF with another virtual event, offering the education profession an amazing 3D experience over both days. SLF is free to attend and the conference programme is carefully developed to support career long professional learning, helping to keep professional practice fresh, up-to-date and relevant. You can subscribe to the SLF Delegate e-bulletin for the latest news and information.


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