Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and youth work visits and trips

Published: 2 Sep 2020
Last updated: 19 Aug 2021 - see all updates

Information for local authorities and schools.

2 Sep 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and youth work visits and trips

This guidance is for those organising visits for school-aged children, including local authorities and their associated schools, grant-aided schools and independent schools, and youth work providers organising residential stays. It sets out the current position in relation to organised visits and trips for school-aged children (from 19 August 2021).

Since May 2021, school day visits and residential stays have been permitted subject to certain mitigations. This guidance updates the previous guidance on school visits and trips that was issued on 30 June 2021 to relax some of the previous restrictions on outdoor expeditions and residential stays.

It should be read alongside:

It does not cover routine and expected off-site visits including but not limited to: movement between education establishments to support learners with additional support needs or to partake in a school-college partnership. Schools should consider the Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools when making arrangements for routine and expected off-site visits. 

All of the guidance set out below is aligned with the successful progress of school and broader societal reopening as set out within Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework.

This guidance is therefore subject to change and schools, youth work providers and visit providers should consider the conditional nature of this guidance when planning visits and trips.

Short local excursions which promote outdoor learning

As per previous guidance, short local excursions which promote outdoor learning (such as a short visit to a local park or green space) can take place as long as these excursions are appropriately risk assessed. The appropriate size of any group travelling off site to undertake outdoor learning should also be considered.

Schools and youth work providers should exercise judgement as to what constitutes a short local outdoor excursion and what constitutes a more substantial day visit. More substantial day visits should be undertaken in line with the guidance set out in the section below.

Day visits

Day visits (i.e visits which go beyond a local excursion and that do not include an overnight stay) can take place subject to the following conditions:

Residential visits

Residential educational activity (i.e visits that contain at least one overnight stay) can take place subject to the conditions set out below and as updated on 19 August 2021. This includes residential visits over multiple nights. In addition, it should be noted that residential visits are no longer subject to caps on overnight tent/room occupancy or on expedition group size.

It is advised that schools or youth work providers work with residential visit providers to ensure that the mitigating actions outlined below are put in place. More detailed advice, developed by the Scottish Advisory Panel on Outdoor Education, on implementing the mitigations set out in this guidance is available. The SAPOE guidance provides detailed supplementary guidance on the safe operation of outdoor residential excursions and visits, and is updated in line with this guidance.

The table below provides guidance in relation to conducting safe outdoor residential expeditions (such as those associated with The Duke of Edinburgh Award or similar) and residential visits to outdoor education centres. Residential visits of these types have been longstanding features of Scottish education as they allow young people to undergo a more immersive educational experience and develop skills for life such as resilience and independence. The overnight aspect is integral to the learning experience and can therefore take place, subject to mitigating actions.

Relevant guidance


Reducing risks in schools guidance

In line with the broader “reducing the risks in schools” guidance:

  • face coverings should continue to be worn indoors by young people from secondary schools until this changes in the broader schools guidance (i.e. until at least 6 weeks from the start of term)
  • physical distancing of at least 1 metre should be maintained indoors between adults, and between adults and children and young people  
  • self-isolation is now only required for those who are symptomatic, test positive using a PCR or Lateral Flow Device (LFD), or are identified by Test and Protect as a close contact and are awaiting their PCR test result

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland's Strategic Framework



In addition to the schools guidance:

  • there are no longer any limits on overnight tent/room occupancy. It is recommended that where possible children and young people do not use toilet and washing facilities at the same time as those outside their room/tent group, to minimise transmission risk. This may help avoid large numbers of children and young people needing to isolate
  • there are no longer any limits on expedition group size indoors or outdoors
  • there is no longer a requirement to maintain ‘bubbles’ between groups from different schools/organisations on the same site, provided other mitigations remain in place and appropriate risk assessments are undertaken. However, groups should still be kept separate where possible to reduce the risks of spread
  • as an appropriate mitigation, it is recommended to education authorities and youth work providers that staff and children and young people aged 12+ taking part in an overnight visit be invited to undertake a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test two days before the visit begins
  • in all cases, risk assessments for each group should be approved in advance of the visit by the outdoor education provider concerned to ensure adequate mitigations and precautions are in place
  • groups should continue to have clear arrangements in place for isolation and repatriation arrangements if required, similar to the arrangements noted in the detailed guidance from outdoor education providers above. For example, ensuring a ventilated space is available for symptomatic children or staff to wait until they can be collected or safely get home
  • any travel arrangements would still be expected to follow latest guidance as set out in the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools, and relevant school Covid-19 protocols would be maintained during the entire trip
  •  a summary of previous guidance linked to local protection levels can be used as a guide for schools and youth work providers who may wish to put additional mitigations in place due to local circumstances

Cross border visits within the UK

If schools or youth work providers wish to conduct cross border day or residential visits within the UK then they should first establish that the visit is permissible by consulting the latest COVID-19 travel guidance for both Scotland and the destination. They should also consult the latest schools and school visits guidance for the destination (as well as youth work guidance where relevant). In addition, schools or youth work providers are advised to undertake additional risk assessment activity considering factors such as Covid prevalence and possible variants of concern at the proposed destination.

If a school or youth work provider establishes that a cross border visit within the UK is permissible and appropriate then all relevant timescales and mitigating actions set out in this guidance should be complied with during that visit. This is in addition to any additional requirements in place at the destination.

International educational visits

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provides advice to British citizens on travel abroad.  The Scottish Government, alongside the UK Government, has put in place a country risk assessment system of red, amber and green lists.  Travel is not recommended to Red and Amber list countries for anything other than essential reasons, and travellers to any destination should consider carefully if their journey is really necessary. This is subject to review, and the most up to date FCDO guidance should continue to be consulted at any time.

The risk of taking a group of children and young people and staff abroad and potentially having to remain in that country for longer than planned, or undertake quarantine on return, should not be underestimated. Such an outcome would impact significantly, not just on children and young people, but on staff who would be unable to attend work. It is also unlikely that travel insurers would currently provide cover in respect of COVID-19 disruption for any new or pre-planned international visits.

Therefore, we advise that schools and youth work providers do not undertake international visits at present. This guidance on international visits is kept under review, is therefore subject to change and will in any case be reviewed again by the end of August 2021.





First published: 2 Sep 2020 Last updated: 19 Aug 2021 -