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

Guidance for early learning, school aged childcare and childminder settings on reducing the risks of COVID-19.

This document is part of a collection

About this guidance

This guidance is for:

  • all providers of registered day care of children’s services who provide care to children under primary school age, including nurseries, playgroups, family centres, crèches and fully outdoor services for children aged 5 and under
  • Care Inspectorate registered childminders and assistants
  • all providers of Care Inspectorate registered school age childcare services in all sectors – local authority, private and third sectors, including breakfast clubs, after-school care and holiday care

Contents of this page

Aim of this guidance

To provide clear expectations to service managers and staff on practical approaches to safe provision of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC), school age childcare and childminding services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance is not exhaustive, and providers must continue to operate within the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff and of children and parents while they are using their service.

This guidance should be read alongside:

Nothing in this guidance affects the legal obligations on providers regarding health and safety, and public health advice. Providers must continue to adhere to all such duties when implementing this guidance. Under the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Act 2022, providers must have regard to any advice relating to COVID-19 from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.

ELC, school age childcare and childminding services must continue to operate within the parameters of the national operating guidance and/or their Care Inspectorate certificate of registration.

How we update our guidance

The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues provided advice to support and inform the development of operational guidance for providers of learning, childcare and children’s services and reflects the latest advice from public health experts. Unless otherwise stated, the protective measures set out in this guidance represent the routine protective measures that should be in place in all settings.

This revised guidance replaced the suite of Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance previously in place for early learning and childcare services, school age childcare services and childminder services.

Scotland's Strategic Framework

The Scottish Government published its Strategic Framework update on 22 February 2022. This makes clear that the population has much stronger protection against COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, due to the vaccination programme and the development of natural immunity to the infection. The Strategic Framework assesses where we are in the pandemic and sets out Scotland’s strategic approach to managing COVID-19 effectively, primarily through adaptations and health measures that strengthen our resilience and recovery, as we rebuild for a better future.

For childcare, this means:

  • a small number of routine protective measures will remain, and these are set out in this guidance
  • there will be no measures set out in regulations (i.e. that are legally enforceable). Guidance for childcare will continue to be non-statutory
  • the need for these protective measures will continue to be kept under constant review, and if data and evidence suggest that the approach to any specific mitigations should be updated then we will revise and reissue this guidance following public health and clinical advice

In line with Scotland's commitment to Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC), children have the right to the best possible health with their best interests a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect them. Adults, of course, also have fundamental rights in relation to their health and wellbeing. These important rights and considerations have been factored into the development of this guidance.

The national practice guidance 'Realising the Ambition: Being Meemphasises that our focus must remain on supporting children to form a secure and emotionally resilient attachment base which will stand them in good stead as they grow and develop. Secure, nurturing and attached relationships, supported by trauma-informed practitioners, are essential to creating the conditions for children to flourish in childcare settings.

Impact assessment

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting and protecting equality in the implementation of all government policy and in upholding the principles of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as GIRFEC in relation to any government actions or guidance that impacts on the lives of children and young people. Information on the Child’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA), Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA), Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA) and Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) associated with this guidance, has been published.


We recognise that head teachers, setting managers, childminders and staff are best placed to understand the unique circumstances that they operate in and the needs of the families they support, and therefore they should make their own judgements on risk assessments and how to operate safely within the parameters of this guidance.

The impact of the vaccination programme, the availability of and access to antiviral treatments, and increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk mean that we removed the previous recommended restrictions. However, we recommend retaining some routine protective measures in order to minimise infection prevention and control risks in settings.

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