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
COVID-19 guidance

COVID-19 guidance

Managers and staff in the setting must make themselves familiar with COVID-19 advice available from Public Health Scotland, and regularly review that information. It is important that the most up-to-date guidance is used, and that managers and staff are knowledgeable about current guidance. Always access guidance online wherever possible and check regularly for any updated advice.

Update service status – services closed as a result of lockdown

Where services temporarily close due to COVID-19, the manager must contact the Care Inspectorate to advise them of their updated operational status.  

To do this they must complete a “Changes to Service Delivery due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)” notification. This is a new notification that services must use to inform the Care Inspectorate about operational changes that are specifically related to COVID-19. This is only available through eForms. If you do not update your status, the Care Inspectorate will consider your service closed.

Risk assessments

Employers must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, children, young people and others from COVID-19 within the education setting. It is a legal requirement that local authorities and ELC settings ensure that risk assessments are conducted and reviewed on a regular basis or when circumstances change. Managers must ensure that risk assessments take place on a setting by setting and individual basis where required. To help with setting-level risk assessments, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an example COVID-19 risk assessment which provides a general framework for all business sectors. Guidance on how to undertake individual level risk assessments for members of staff is available in guidance produced by the Scottish Government.

Setting-level risk assessments are expected to consider all risks identified in respect of COVID-19 and must take account of the relevant guidance from Public Health Scotland, and the HSE. The assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus, so that appropriate measures can be put in place to control those risks for everyone. All risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and as circumstances change. Risk assessments must be reviewed prior to the re-opening after holiday periods or other temporary closure and when there is any significant change to service delivery.

Settings should ensure that they implement pragmatic and proportionate control measures which reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practical level. They should have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are:

  • effective
  • working as planned
  • updated appropriately considering any issues identified and changes in public health advice

Staff, staff representatives and trade unions should be consulted in the development and updating of risk assessments. Plans and risk assessments should be communicated to parents and must be shared with all staff. This must include staff who are employed within the service but who do not provide direct care to children such as catering or cleaning staff. Support staff have a key role to play in reducing the risk from COVID-19 and it is important that they understand and follow the changes to procedures required to reduce the risk of the spread of infection. The Care Inspectorate will check staff understanding of the risk assessment and mitigations as part of any scrutiny work they carry out.

This dialogue in relation to the risk assessments should identify what measures are working, where improvements are possible and identify any remaining gaps. Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent. Mitigation measures should be implemented as soon as the need for them is are identified and assessment of compliance should be undertaken on a daily basis.

If premises have been closed for many weeks or if parts of the building have been out of use for a long period, the provider must undertake a health and safety check of the building concerned prior to reopening, including water quality sampling for legionella and other bacteria.


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