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
Workforce support

Supporting the workforce to be confident and safe

We have a collective responsibility to enable all staff to feel confident when returning to the workplace. They should have the opportunity to read and discuss the following:

As settings plan to welcome back children and their families and staff after holidays or periods of absence, staff wellbeing must be protected. Staff will need time to re-connect, to meet, talk and 'check in' with each other.

Providers should communicate extensively with their staff to ensure that they are clear and confident in implementing the required public health measures and processes in advance of settings reopening to all children. There must be clearly defined training sessions for staff on the risk mitigations set out in this guidance. To prepare for the return to ELC for all children, staff must be given the opportunity to highlight the need for any further local training to help reassure and protect themselves and their colleagues.

COVID-19 checklist for the early learning and childcare sector

We have published  a checklist that summarises the COVID risk mitigations for ELC settings. This should not be used as a substitute for reading the full guidance. This is especially true for managers of settings who must read the full guidance to understand the measures that they should implement in service planning.

To accompany an earlier version of this guidance, we developed an animation to raise awareness of some of the key risk mitigation measures . It focused on the behaviours that all staff in settings should be demonstrating to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. We also produced guidance to accompany this animation. We will consider if and how this animation should be updated, to reflect the updates in this version of the guidance.

Routine asymptomatic testing of ELC staff

The Scottish Government has made available routine asymptomatic at-home testing using lateral flow devices (LFD), twice a week to all day care of children services. This does not replace the existing procedures for testing of staff who have symptoms of COVID-19.

Testing is voluntary and nobody is required to undergo testing without consent, or excluded from a setting if they do not wish to be tested. However, we are encouraging staff and settings to participate, to contribute to the wellbeing of everyone in their setting and community. Adherence to the risk mitigations is key to controlling transmission but if the easing of risk mitigations in lower protection levels make staff and parents nervous, participation in the testing programme may offer some reassurance.

All participants are encouraged to report their results through the digital portal – whether the result is positive, negative or void. This enables us to monitor effectiveness of the programme and understand the level of demand for this kind of testing offer.

Step by step guidance has been shared with schools and ELC settings attached to schools via Objective Connect. The guidance was developed in collaboration with NHS Test and Protect and the UK Department for Health and Social Care to support schools and ELC settings in the delivery of the Schools Asymptomatic Testing Programme.

All staff, students on placement, and children and families, should continue to be vigilant for coronavirus symptoms. The asymptomatic testing programme using LFD testing does not replace the current testing policy for those with symptoms. If their asymptomatic test is positive, the member of staff must isolate and access a confirmatory PCR test as per their usual asymptomatic testing channel, even if they are without symptoms. If their asymptomatic test is negative, they can remain at work unless symptoms develop but should not consider themselves free from infection and must still adhere to all mitigations. On the occasion that a symptomatic staff member has used a LFD test and has returned a negative result, they should still self-isolate and arrange a PCR test.

Any person who has had a PCR confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the previous 90 days should not participate in LFD at home testing for those 90 days, and is exempt from further testing unless they develop symptoms, in which case they should stay at home and arrange a PCR test via the usual NHS Inform route.

Staff wellbeing and professional learning support

The Scottish Government is working with partners from across the childcare sector to develop a directory of existing mental health, wellbeing and professional learning support for ELC, and out of school care, practitioners and childminders. 

In addition, Scottish Government has worked with Early Years Scotland to develop a new Team ELC Wellbeing Hub, a website which sets out vital information for the sector on maintaining their wellbeing at this difficult time, and creates opportunities for staff to connect with each other.

It is also important that professionals from across the ELC sector are provided with safe and supportive spaces to connect with colleagues from across Scotland in a virtual environment, to allow for professional dialogue and peer support to take place during this challenging period. The Scottish Government will work with Education Scotland to create such opportunities, for example via further instances of the successful #BeingMeBlethers professional learning events, which have enabled practitioners from across the ELC and childcare sector to engage in shared learning.

Practitioners may find it valuable to access support for their health and wellbeing, given many will be balancing work with managing their own childcare needs and any stressors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, including potential illness and bereavement within their own families.

Children’s wellbeing, nurture and experiences

Staff will be aware that the pandemic will have had a unique impact on each child and their family, as well as themselves and their colleagues at work. It is important that the child is at the centre of their practice to ensure quality, whilst balancing safety and risk. Staff should support children and families to understand the need for the changes.

It is essential, that ELC continues to be informed by the principles which underpin high quality provision. While aspects of practice may be delivered differently, practitioners will still be working to meet the needs of their children and their families.

Children have the right to play and learn, as set out in Article 31(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life. 

In Scotland, the Government has enshrined children’s right to play outdoors every day in its national Health and Social Care Standards – “As a child, I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment” (HSCS 1.32).

Practice that reflects the principles of nurture and the importance of relationships is also key. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), with its focus on wellbeing, recognises that children and young people have the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them to grow and develop and to have their voices heard. Working in partnership with parents is essential, with two way sharing of information being fundamental to this. The GIRFEC approach is about responding in a meaningful, supportive way which puts the wellbeing of children and families at the heart of any support.

The national practice guidance ‘Realising the Ambition: Being Me’ talks about the crucial role of the environment. This includes the importance of physical spaces; the human, social environment of positive nurturing interactions; and children’s experiences. Settings need to be confident that they are providing experiences and sensitive interactions in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces, in ways which best support the needs of children within the context of the recovery period. This will help develop the emotional resilience babies, toddlers and young children need to form a secure wellbeing base.

During the COVID-19 recovery period settings will require to adjust how they provide high quality provision. Some aspects of practice will need to be delivered in different ways to ensure the safety of all. Further information can be accessed through the ‘Realising the Ambition: Being Me’ page on the National Improvement Hub to provide practical support with this. The principles that underpin that high quality however remain unchanged. Best practice will:

  • put the best interests of the child at the heart of decision making
  • take a holistic approach to the wellbeing of a child
  • work with children, young people and their families on ways to improve wellbeing
  • advocate preventative work and early intervention to support children, young people and their families
  • believe professionals must work together in the best interests of the child

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