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
Physical distancing between adults

Physical distancing (between adults in the setting, including parents at drop-off and pick-up times)

Physical distancing between adults remains a fundamental protective measure that should apply at all times. Individual physical distancing applies to staff, parents and carers (and any other adults who may attend the setting), older siblings and any external contractors or delivery people. It is essential that all these groups are taken into consideration.

Following the review of physical distancing in Scotland, the First Minister announced in her statement to parliament on Tuesday, 13 July that physical distancing measures will be slowly eased to enable us to operate in a less restricted way. When areas move down to Level 0 on 19 July, where there isn’t already a 1 metre rule in place, the physical distance requirement in indoor public places will reduce from 2 metres to 1 metre. The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues provided advice at its meeting on 27 July on whether it was appropriate to make this change in childcare settings while Scotland remained in Level 0.

Settings should continue to adhere to the 2 metres physical distance between adults. However, when Scotland moves beyond Level 0, the physical distancing requirement for adults in ELC settings will be at least 1 metre. If settings already have 2 metre physical distancing arrangements that work well and do not limit capacity then they may retain these for logistical reasons.

Retaining 2 metres between adults who do not yet meet the criteria for exemption from self-isolation will help to reduce the risk that they are identified as a close contact (the definition of a contact is explained in section 8 of Public Health Scotland’s contact tracing guidance).

All staff rooms, canteens, bases and offices should be reconfigured to ensure the physical distancing rule is able to be maintained. Where there is not sufficient space to support distancing, for example in staff rooms, offices or work areas, risk assessments should be carried out, and consideration should be given to measures to minimise risk. These measures could include limiting the number of adults in any one space at any one time, staggering staff breaks, creating additional staff work or welfare areas, use of rotas to manage access to spaces, etc. These useful mitigations could also be considered even where space allows for physical distancing.  

Learning from outbreaks across a range of sectors suggests that lapses in adherence to physical distancing can occur when staff take breaks from work and mix with colleagues outside or in staff rooms and other social areas. Staff 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 staff 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 staff have to come within the required physical distance of each other.

The experience of providers since reopening after the first lockdown shows that use of physical distancing (alongside other precautions) will reduce the overall number who need to isolate in the event of a child or staff member contracting COVID-19.


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