Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services

Non-statutory guidance to support the continued safe operation of ELC settings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services
Applying the guidance/capacity/opening hours

Applying the guidance

The practical guidance on implementing public health measure provides the basis for settings to operate safely. These measures will change the way that providers deliver services. When implementing these measures, providers will have to consider how this will affect their operating model. This will differ from provider to provider, and from setting to setting, and a single guidance document could not cover the range of possible settings and delivery models across Scotland.


The public health measures described above may have an impact on capacity, and that impact may be different depending on the physical layout and staffing approaches in each setting. Providers will need to assess whether there is a capacity impact for each available space in their setting, and how this affects the number of children that can be safely cared for in the setting. Providers should assess what capacity is available before making offers of placements to parents.

Key principles to consider in assessing capacity impact are discussed below.

Physical capacity

The physical capacity of the setting may be affected by public health measures, including limiting children’s interactions, ensure physical distancing for adults, and enhanced hygiene practices. Providers should review the layout of settings and consider how many children can be accommodated safely at any one time while meeting these requirements. This may be below the normal Care Inspectorate registered capacity of the setting based on current floor space requirements.

Staffed capacity

The staffing requirements may be affected by public health measures. Staff may also need to clean play equipment etc. on a more regular basis as well as monitoring and supporting children’s hygiene practices. Potential absence and reduced staff availability due to, for example self-isolation, may also affect a setting’s capacity to deliver services. Consideration should be given to the impact on vulnerable staff as discussed above.

Providers should review staffing models and consider how many children can be safely accommodated throughout the day.

Hours of opening

Settings across the country operate a range of models, including term time only or all year models, and longer or shorter days. Providers may wish to consider what hours of opening are required to meet the needs of parents while responding to public health measures, and to offset reduced physical or staffed capacity.

If appropriate and deliverable, extending the opening hours of a setting each day or across more weeks of the year may offer more capacity to enable more children to attend.

First published: 11 Aug 2021 Last updated: 11 Oct 2021 -