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
Visits to the setting by parents/carers

Visits to the setting by parents/carers

At its meeting on 21 September, the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues discussed its advice on visitors to settings. It agreed that visits by parents could be allowed in a broader range of circumstances. A note of the discussion can be found here. Visits must be necessary and proportionate, agreed in advance, risk assessed and with the permission of the manager or head teacher.

Table 5: visits by parents/carers

Level 0 and below

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4/Stay local

Parents/carers may accompany children onto ELC premises where this is agreed in advance with the setting and is considered necessary to support children. Where it is considered beneficial, parents/carers may also attend settings for individual parental visits related to the wellbeing, progress and behaviour of children.

Parents/carers may attend appropriate outdoor events at settings such as sports days or celebration events, providing all activity is consistent with relevant Scottish Government guidance on health, physical distancing, and hygiene.

Telephone calls, online meetings and ‘virtual’ visits should be the norm for meetings with parents. However, where it may be in the best interests of children for a parent or carer to attend in person, this should be considered on a case by case basis, for example in relation to child protection issues, addressing additional support needs or where a parent has a disability which affects communication over the telephone or online. 


Where virtual arrangements for parental engagement (such as virtual tours) are already in place and working well, these can continue to be used.

Visitors should maintain physical distancing from other adults who are not part of their household and should aim to physically distance from children who are not part of their household as far as is feasible, recognising that some children will find this difficult.

Risk mitigation measures should be clearly communicated to visitors. This may include, amongst other things, the displaying of notices around the setting.

The ability to maintain physical distancing should determine the number of visitors that can be accommodated.

If the visit takes place indoors ensure that the meeting space is well ventilated, face coverings are worn by adults and that there is a supply of alcohol based hand rub available to visitors at the entrance to the setting.

Visits should be with the permission of the manager or head teacher who will be best placed to judge what is appropriate in local circumstances (including in the context of cases within the setting’s community).

Parents should be encouraged to take part in the universal testing offer prior to entering the setting.

The number of staff meeting with parents/carers in each visit should also be kept to a minimum.

Where parents have been identified as a close contact but are exempt from self-isolating because they have been double vaccinated and have had a negative PCR test, the visit should be delayed to minimise the risk of transmission into the setting.

Additional arrangements for sharing information between staff and families should be agreed to ensure that clear lines of communication are available where face to face contact is not routinely taking place, for example this might include (where appropriate) video messaging, phone calls or text messages, photographs or email. When settings communicate using these additional measures they must also consider the General Data Protection regulations (GDPR), and update their existing privacy policies where necessary.

Supporting transitions in other ways

Education Scotland have developed two resources to supporting transitions during COVID restrictions:  

Wherever possible when a child is settling into the service, this should be undertaken in an outdoor area with the parent and away from other children. It is important that relationships are developed and the settling in period reflects the needs of the children.

Providers should consider how they will support staff, parents and children to familiarise themselves to the revised layouts and movement patterns described above. This should be made fun for children.

For children with additional support needs, settings must work in partnership with parents, lead professionals, children and young people to establish what support and plans need to be put in place to meet their needs. Enhanced transitions may be considered for children with additional support needs, such as through visual representations and plans of physical distancing in their settings.

Settings may wish to consider the following approaches:

  • a map could be displayed in the setting detailing entry/exit points and new circulation patterns, for use by staff and parents
  • social stories and videos shared with children in advance to explain what will be new, and what the nursery day will be like
  • drawing on learning from the retail sector, clear signage and colour coding on walls and floors could be implemented prior to return to help with wayfinding
  • appropriate visuals will be particularly important for children. These will need to be clear and child friendly to enable them to be understood by as many children as possible taking account of any visual impairments children may have. These could include signs that display meaningful pictures or symbols. Any signage that involves direct interaction from children will need to be cleaned regularly and additional methods of communication should also be considered

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