Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools

Guidance to help schools ensure a low-risk environment for learning and teaching.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools
Changes to previous guidance

Changes to previous guidance

This section sets out the key changes to the mitigations and measures that were in place at the end of the previous term. Local authorities and schools should ensure that all staff and pupils are aware of these updates and, where modifications to mitigations were required, these changes have been implemented. The majority of these changes were advised in the version of this guidance issued prior to the start of term. Where additional changes have been made for this latest iteration of the guidance that is highlighted below.

Modifications to mitigations in line with this guidance should be appropriately reflected in updated risk assessments. Full guidance on the risk assessment process is in Mitigations in detail (Annex A of the PDF).

Vaccination 

All schools should encourage staff who have not received both doses of the vaccine to seek vaccination as soon as possible, following the recommended gap between doses.  Information on securing an appointment can be found at: Registering for a coronavirus vaccine | The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine (nhsinform.scot). Drop-in clinics for every age cohort (18+) for first and second doses are now available across every mainland health board area. 12-17 year-olds can access drop-in clinics (these will be extended to 12-15 year-olds from week commencing 20 September – see below), or appointments can be booked at a convenient time.

In updated advice published on 4 August, the JCVI recommended that all 16 to 17-year-olds should be offered a first dose of Pfizer vaccine. On 13 September 2019, the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers recommended that all 12 to 15-year-olds should also be offered a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This is in addition to the existing offer of two doses of vaccine to 12 to 17-year-olds who are in ‘at-risk’ groups (see below). Pending further evidence on effectiveness and safety in this age group, a second vaccine dose is anticipated to be offered later to increase the level of protection and contribute towards longer term protection.

This advice built on the previous JCVI advice that recommended vaccinating three key groups of children and young people under 18 years of age:

  • children aged 12 to 15 years of age with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, and those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register are considered at increased risk for serious COVID-19 disease.
  • children and young people aged 12 years and over who are household contacts of persons (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed should be offered COVID-19 vaccination on the understanding that the main benefits from vaccination are related to the potential for indirect protection of their household contact who is immunosuppressed.
  • young people aged 16 to 17 years of age who are at higher risk of serious COVID-19, as currently set out in the Green Book (COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)), should continue to be offered COVID-19 vaccination in line with the current programme approach.

Local health boards will work with local colleagues such as community children’s nursing, learning disability service and paediatric services to plan the most appropriate vaccination setting according to children and young people’s individual needs. 

All young people aged 12 and over are now being offered the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination in Scotland.

  • young people who are 12 and over – subject to parental or carer consent, if appropriate –  in mainland Scotland will be invited to register their interest through the online portal at NHS Inform, and will then be sent an appointment via SMS or email.
  • eligible young people in Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles will be contacted by their health board and invited to attend clinics.
  • alternatively, drop-in clinics offering Pfizer- BioNTech are available for young people aged 12 and over to visit (these will be extended to 12-15 year-olds from week commencing 20 September) .

Anyone who doesn’t register an interest or attend a drop-in clinic will be sent an appointment invitation through the post.

Following these scheduled community sessions, it is expected that there will be a programme of vaccination in schools to ensure that any young people who have not been vaccinated, and who decide that they wish to be on the basis of informed consent, have the opportunity. This programme will be developed in partnership between health boards and local authorities and further details will be provided to schools in due course.

Information is available on NHS Inform along with access to the self-registration portal: https://www.nhsinform.scot/vaccineregistration. Public Health Scotland has produced an information leaflet for 16-17 year-olds and further materials for 12-15 year-olds will be made available shortly.

Drop in clinics across mainland health boards can be found at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/vaccinedropinclinics with 12 to 17 year olds eligible to attend those offering Pfizer-BioNTech (12-15 year-olds from week commencing 20 September).

Those without online access can call the National Helpline on 0800 030 8013.

The Scottish Government has decided, in agreement with Governments across the UK, to follow this JCVI advice on deployment of vaccination of those aged under 18 as set out above.

Self-isolation policy (including contact tracing and testing)

This section of the guidance was updated on 15 September 2021, to ensure alignment with NHS Test and Protect guidance and to reflect feedback received to date on implementation of revised self-isolation and contact tracing policies.

There have been no changes to the rules on self-isolation for those with symptoms or who test positive.

Changes to the rules on self-isolation for contacts of positive cases were made on 9 August. These changes were made because the health risks that arise when people are in contact with others who test positive have changed significantly, most notably due to vaccination. Vaccine uptake is very high, particularly among individuals who are at greater risk of harm from COVID-19 , and the vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease (with 96% effectiveness against hospitalisation for the Delta variant). Children and young people have a very low risk of health harm from COVID-19 , and children and young people with asymptomatic infection are at a relatively low risk of transmitting COVID-19 to adults. This means that the risk environment has changed significantly, and our approach to managing Covid-19 is evolving to reflect that.

Further information on the analysis and evidence that has informed the approach to mitigations in schools can be found in the latest advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, which includes a summary report of the evidence on children, schools and ELC settings and transmission of COVID-19.

Using the risk-informed approach set out in this guidance, all potential contacts (whether high or low risk) will be identified and provided with appropriate, proportionate advice on the action that should be taken in the following ways:

  • Test and Protect will, through the contact tracing system, identify those contacts where there is a higher risk of transmission and ask them to self-isolate and take a PCR test; and
  • other low risk contacts will be identified by schools when they are informed of positive cases, and sent information letters that advise them to take certain mitigating actions.

These actions do not require self-isolation, but include important advice on LFD testing and other mitigating actions.

This approach means that blanket isolation of whole classes will no longer be routine. Far fewer children and young people are likely to be asked to self-isolate, and when they do it will be for a shorter period of time while they await their PCR result.

Self-isolation for people with symptoms or testing positive

Any adult or child who develops symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste) must self-isolate immediately in line with NHS Guidance. NB: People living in the same household, for example any siblings, must also isolate while awaiting the outcome of the test result.

Any adult or child who tests positive using a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test within 48 hours to confirm the result. As above, people living in the same household, for example any siblings, must also isolate while awaiting the outcome of the test result.

Any adult or child who tests positive using PCR tests (including following a positive LFD test) must isolate for 10 days in line with NHS Guidance.

There are no changes to self-isolation rules if you have had a positive test or if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Reporting of positive cases to schools

Schools should ask parents whether their child has tested positive for COVID-19 when parents are reporting absences, and parents should be prompted to mention any positive tests when leaving messages about absences (including via automated systems). The wording on the online contact tracing form that all people testing positive are sent as soon as their test results are received also prompts parents/pupils/staff to report the result to the school. If called by a contact tracer, the person testing positive will again be prompted to inform the school. In some circumstances, if a contact tracer requires to contact the school directly, they will also inform the school of the positive case. In this way, there are multiple routes and prompts to help ensure schools are alerted to positive cases as soon as possible after a member of staff or pupil tests positive.

Staff, including peripatetic and temporary staff, should be advised to tell their line manager or the head teacher as soon as they receive a positive test result.

Identifying contacts

Test and Protect will gather details of high risk contacts through an online form that is provided to positive cases simultaneously when results are received and, dependent on the priority of the case, via a follow-up phone call.

When positive results are reported to schools by staff and parents/pupils, it can help support the process if they take the opportunity to encourage those staff and parents to engage with the Test and Protect process and complete the online form as soon as possible.

Identifying high risk contacts of adults e.g. staff members who test positive

If the positive case is aged over 18, they will be asked by Test and Protect, using the online form, to identify all contacts using the same definition:

  • household members (children, partner, etc.) and any other adults who were within 2 metres of them for more than 15 minutes
  • who they saw more than once for shorter times that add up to 15 minutes
  • or who they were face to face with (within 1 metre) for any amount of time

This includes people in their household, but could also, for example, include school colleagues they have worked closely with, or socialised or shared a car with. All of these adults are classed as high risk contacts and should be named on the online form. The naming of contacts is not dependent on vaccination status but the isolation and testing requirement is. This is covered in sections below.

Adult cases are not now asked to share with Test and Protect the details of anyone under the age of 18 (e.g. pupils from their classes), unless they live in the same home, or they have stayed overnight in the same home. This is because these non-household child and young person contacts are considered to be low risk based on a range of factors, including vaccination rates, evidence about transmission from children and young people, and the low risk of direct health harms to children, particularly when set against the significant harms that can result when otherwise healthy children and young people are asked to self-isolate and miss school.

Those low risk contacts (including staff ,parents and pupils) will instead be identified and informed of the positive case through the information letter process set out below, which schools should take forward as soon as they are informed of positive cases in either staff or pupils.

Identifying high risk contacts of children and young people e.g. pupils who test positive

When a child or young person tests positive, the person contacted by Test and Protect and asked to fill in the online form will be the person who requested the test e.g. the parent of a child, or a young person who has requested a test for themselves.

If the case is aged under 18 they are asked only to share the details of contacts who are at high risk of transmission. These include people they live with or who have stayed overnight in their home. They are asked to share the details of the parent or guardian of anyone under 16 or in care that they do name.

Child and young person cases are asked not to share contacts from outside the home such as teachers, classroom contacts or friends unless they have had unusually close or prolonged contact with them e.g. provision of close personal care or overnight stays. This is because these non-household child and young person contacts are considered to be low risk, as set out above.

There is a risk that some pupils or parents may not be able to identify all adult school staff who are high risk contacts via the Test and Protect process. To mitigate against this risk, schools are asked to take certain actions (set out below) to identify any additional high risk staff contacts when the school is informed of a positive child case.

All other low risk contacts of positive child cases (e.g. staff and pupils who have had “business-as-usual” contacts in the same class as the positive case) will be identified and informed through the information letter process set out below, which schools will take forward as soon as they are informed of positive cases in either staff or pupils. This includes adults who may have been within 2m, etc. of children and young people in schools, unless they are identified as high risk contacts by Test and Protect or schools on the basis that they have had unusually close or prolonged contact with the positive case (see below for more information on this, and for examples of unusually close or prolonged contact).

Additional contact tracing for schools

Identifying (exceptionally) any additional high risk contacts

Schools should be informed of positive cases as soon as possible by parents or, in certain circumstances, by Test and Protect after a positive test result is received (see earlier sections).

If, following confirmation of a child or young person testing positive, the school feels that a staff member is, or may be, a high risk contact because they have had unusually close or prolonged contact with that positive case in line with the examples set out below, AND the relevant staff member has not to date received notification via the Test and Protect system, the school can contact their local Health Protection Team. They will provide advice on whether the individual is in fact a high risk contact and what action should be taken.

NB: Before doing so, schools should ensure they have noted the examples of what would constitute unusually close or prolonged contact set out here:

Unusually close or prolonged contact does not include ‘business as usual’ contacts in the classroom where the relevant mitigations are being followed (e.g. teaching in the same classroom as a positive case). Examples of unusually close or prolonged contact may include repeat toileting using hoist equipment for a child with ASN when PPE has not been used, or overnight stays (e.g. in a dormitory on a school trip).

Staff who are low risk contacts will still be informed of positive cases in their classes/schools through the information letter process set out below.

Identifying low risk contacts (information letters)

As soon as schools are informed of a positive case they should take action to identify low risk contacts so they can issue them with a targeted information letter the same day that sets out the actions those low risk contacts should take.

Due to the level of risk involved, this process should not involve detailed contact tracing that is onerous for school teams to undertake.

Feedback suggests that information letters are more likely to be effective if targeted to those people who are most likely to have been in lower risk contact with a positive case.

As a general rule, schools should therefore consider targeting the letters towards those staff and parents of pupils they would have considered close contacts under the previous, well-understood contact tracing system in schools, such as pupils sitting close to the confirmed case, potential contacts in the same class or classes, those who have been on a school trip with the positive case, or other relevant situations of which school leadership teams will have local knowledge.

Schools do not need to issue multiple letters to the same parents/staff if there are multiple cases in the same class during an outbreak. In these circumstances, however, they should keep parents, pupils and staff informed regularly of key developments (e.g. of any advice received from local Health Protection Teams, or updates on further positive cases or case numbers), and take opportunities to reinforce the messages set out in the letter originally issued.

Actions to be taken following identification as a high or low risk contact

When children or adults are identified as high or low risk contacts of a positive case, they are asked to take actions to limit the risk of onward transmission. These may include self-isolation subject to a negative PCR test (for high risk contacts) or advice on LFD testing and other mitigations (for low risk contacts). These actions vary depending on age, vaccination status and any history of previous infection.

Actions for high risk contacts

If a child, young person (or their parent/carer if under 16 years) or staff member is contacted by Test and Protect and identified as a high-risk contact while at school, the person should leave school and travel home avoiding the use of public transport wherever possible and, if possible, they should wear a face covering.

All contacts identified through the Test and Protect process should follow the advice on self-isolation sent to them and as set out on NHS Inform. A self-help guide is available. This applies to all high risk child contacts and all adult contacts.

Isolation for these contacts can usually be shortened by PCR testing dependent on vaccination status. Full details, including a step-by-step guide, are provided in the NHS Inform resources above.

Actions for low risk contacts

The actions that all other (low risk) contacts should take are set out in template information letters that have been provided to local authorities for agreement with local health protection teams. Updated template information letters for staff and children and young people have been provided with this iteration of the guidance. These set out the steps required of lower risk potential contacts. In summary, they are not required to self-isolate, but they should:

  • take precautions to limit any potential spread. This includes recommendations for both secondary and primary pupils to take an LFD test before returning to the school environment
  • continue with any regular LFD testing programme if they are a staff member or secondary pupil and
  • stay vigilant for symptoms

Outbreak management

Incident Management Teams involved in the handling of outbreaks may still make the decision to engage with schools in the handling of cases, as detailed in the outbreak management section of this guidance.

The flowchart in the contact tracing  (Annex B of the PDF) summarises the approach set out above.

Accessing PCR tests

There are a number of ways to get a PCR test:

  • book a test at NHS Inform for your nearest COVID-19 test site. There are drive-through, walk-through, mobile testing units across Scotland which are open from 8-am until 8pm, 7 days a week. Small scale test sites have also been set up in Highland, Grampian and Argyll & Bute to provide access to testing within local communities. A full list of sites can be found at Gov.Scot.
  • order a home PCR test kit online, or by calling 119. A test will then be delivered to your home. To return you can either drop the test at your nearest priority post box, or if you are unable to go out, you can also call 119 to book a courier collection from your home.

If schools identify any staff or pupils who may find it challenging to access a test site, to reduce the amount of time they may need to wait for a home test kit to be delivered, they can order a limited stock of PCR test kits to provide in advance to those staff or pupils. In the event that those staff or pupils are identified as higher risk close contacts and have to self-isolate, they may then use those PCR test kits to ascertain whether they need to continue to self-isolate, as per NHS guidance.

PCR test kits can be ordered by schools using the same digital ordering system as is used for the schools LFD asymptomatic testing programme.

Groupings 

The revised approach to contact tracing means that groupings (sometimes referred to as “bubbles”) are no longer required to be maintained in schools.

Schools should, however, continue to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings, in keeping with the retention of existing mitigations. This precautionary approach reflects the unique environment in schools, which will still involve bringing together large numbers of unvaccinated children and young people on a non-discretionary basis (and which can therefore be differentiated from other situations in society in which large gatherings take place).

Physical distancing 

Physical distancing between adults, and between adults and children and young people, should remain in place in the school estate.

To ensure alignment with wider society and planned changes in ELC, this requirement has now been updated to physical distancing of at least 1m. As schools should already have 2m physical distancing arrangements that work well and do not limit capacity, it is expected that most schools will wish to retain these 2m distancing arrangements for logistical reasons. It is therefore not anticipated there will be a logistical requirement to make changes to physical distancing arrangements in the school environment. Retaining 2 metres between adults in schools who do not yet meet the criteria for exemption from self-isolation will also help to reduce the risk that they are identified as a close contact.

As previously, there is no requirement for strict physical distancing between children and young people in schools, although maintaining distancing between secondary school pupils is encouraged where possible. Previous guidance on approaches to this can be found in Mitigations in detail chapter (Annex A  of the PDF).

School visitors including professional visitors such at HEI tutors, parental visits, parent councils, community-based interventions and spectators at outdoor sports events

Visitors to schools should be agreed in advance and arrangements appropriately risk-assessed.

Supply staff and other visitors e.g. visiting teachers, psychologists, nurses, social workers, youth workers, outdoor learning specialists, HEI tutors and those providing therapeutic support, can move between schools where necessary. Movements should continue to be limited to those that are necessary to support children and young people or the running of the school until otherwise advised. Where practicable, professional visitors (including HEI tutors) should look to reduce the number of schools visited and to limit their contact time with children and young people.  They should also be encouraged to take regular lateral flow tests. Consideration should be given to the provision of this support by virtual means as appropriate.

Parents/carers may accompany children onto school premises where this is agreed with the school and is considered necessary to support children and young people Where it is considered beneficial, parents/carers may also attend school premises for individual parental visits related to the wellbeing, progress and behaviour of children. All such visits should be risk assessed and agreed in advance by schools as being necessary a proportionate measure.

In line with SportScotland advice on the ‘Return to sport and physical activity’, parents/carers may attend school premises to spectate at outdoor school sports events, providing all activity is consistent with relevant Scottish Government guidance on health, physical distancing, and hygiene. In such circumstances organisers should consider mitigating measures as part of their risk assessment with an emphasis on keeping people safe. Any such measures should be clearly communicated by the organiser prior to the event which may include, amongst other things, the displaying of notices around the venue to remind the public to follow appropriate guidance.

Where it is considered necessary for the smooth functioning of these activities, Parent Councils and Parent Teacher Associations may meet on school premises. Such meetings should be risk assessed in advance and attendees should comply with the physical distancing and safety requirements within the school.  Where virtual arrangements for these engagements are already in place and working well, the default should be that these should continue to be used.

Similarly, and in line with equivalent measures within ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and community learning and development providers’, community-based interventions and community learning and development programmes may also make use of school premises if that is necessary. Again, the focus within any such activity should be on supporting the wellbeing of children and young people. As with the above, such activities should be risk assessed in advance and attendees should comply with all physical distancing and safety requirements that are operational within the school.

Visitors should be expected to comply with the school’s arrangements for managing and minimising risk (including physical distancing and use of face coverings). Schools should ensure that all temporary staff are given access to information on the safety arrangements in place, including the school risk assessment. Arrangements for school visitors should be communicated clearly to staff and the wider school community.

Schools and local authorities should, in partnership with related partners and local public health teams, pay very close attention to any evidence suggesting emerging bridges of transmission between settings. In the event that any such evidence is identified, they should consult immediately with local public health teams on any requirement to pause or further reduce such movement between schools.

Dedicated school transport and public transport

The position on face coverings and physical distancing on dedicated school transport aligns with the position on public transport, so that only young people aged 12 and over are required to wear face coverings. This means that children aged 5-11, who were previously asked to wear face coverings, no longer need to do so. It is important for parents, schools and local authorities to continue to reinforce the importance of school pupils wearing face coverings on dedicated school transport and public transport (noting that there is a legal requirement to do so on public transport).

Physical distancing between passengers who travel on dedicated school transport is not required, but it remains important to be cautious and exercise personal responsibility. Pupils should be supported to understand that, where possible, it is safer to keep a distance from other people. As a precautionary measure, we recommend that 1m distancing between drivers and children and young people on dedicated school transport should continue to be observed where possible.

When physical distancing restrictions on public transport are removed, measures to increase capacity on public transport for school pupils, e.g. dedicated zones, will not be necessary. It is acceptable for pupils from different schools to share dedicated school transport.

Existing arrangements for cleaning, hygiene and ventilation on school transport should continue and they remain important mitigations alongside the wearing of face coverings. Further detail on these existing mitigations is in Mitigations in detail (Annex A of the PDF).

Drama, Music, PE and Dance 

Children and young people can now continue to engage in all drama, music, PE and dance activity in schools, indoors and outdoors.

Safety mitigations should continue to apply in relevant settings where these activities are taking place (e.g. good ventilation, enhanced hygiene, etc.).

Ventilation 

Previous guidance on ventilation continues to apply. In addition, the following strengthened guidance on CO2 monitoring should be followed by local authorities:

  • local authorities should ensure that all schools have access to CO2 monitoring, whether via mobile or fixed devices. This is in order to support the goal of all school buildings, including all learning and teaching spaces, being assessed for ventilation issues with a view to remedial action being taken where required. This assessment work should be completed by the start of the October break wherever possible, subject to any issues regarding supply of CO2 monitors. These assessments may be undertaken by the use of fixed or mobile CO2 monitoring or by other appropriate means (e.g. computer modelling of the school estate), depending on the ventilation systems and other arrangements already in place in school buildings.
  • local authorities and other providers should ensure the information they gather as a result of these assessments is used to inform actions to improve ventilation in schools where required, in line with the previous detailed guidance in Mitigations in detail chapter (Annex A  of the PDF). This may include, for example: Remedial works where appropriate (e.g. accelerated maintenance to remedy windows that will not open or faulty ventilation) or providing further guidance to users (e.g. on regular opening of windows, etc.).
  • local authorities and the Scottish Government will continue to work in partnership together to consider the knowledge acquired as a result of these assessments, including in respect of areas of the school estate with priority ventilation issues and the deployment of effective strategies to achieve temperature/ventilation balance, user comfort, etc. This partnership working will help inform joint consideration of longer-term actions to improve ventilation in the school estate.

Equivalent commitments in respect of day care of children services are set out in separate ELC guidance, with specific arrangements under development to support the PVI sector.

Additional funding of £10m is being provided to local authorities to support this work in the schools and ELC sectors, in addition to previously provided COVID logistics funding.

Asymptomatic testing programme 

It is important that schools and local authorities continue to promote twice-weekly at-home LFD testing actively to their staff and secondary pupils, and that participants are encouraged to record their results.

Some additional steps, including provision of a one-page good practice note (available at asymptomatic testing or Annex D of the PDF and to schools via the testing programme document sharing portal) have been taken to support school and local authority efforts to promote greater uptake and recording of testing for staff and secondary pupils. 

The following updates apply:

  • Communications: The Scottish Government has worked in collaboration with Young Scot to develop a direct mailer pack for every secondary school in Scotland, with printed materials (posters, stickers, door hangs, etc) that can be used to promote uptake and recording of results. Schools are encouraged to make use of these. The Scottish Government will also be working with Young Scot to deliver communications via social media channels.
  • Improvements to test kits/UKG website: Some potential barriers to testing identified by survey evidence were the discomfort of tests and the time it takes to do them and record results. To address this, the following actions are being taken:
  • Once schools have used up their current stocks of Innova test kits and have placed orders for additional test kits, they will be provided with a new type of LFD test kit. While very similar to the current tests, the new LFD device involves a nasal-only swab. This is in response to feedback that throat swabbing can be uncomfortable for some school participants. The new types of test kit also take only c.15-20 minutes for results to be returned, reducing the amount of time involved in testing.
  • The UK Government have also updated their online reporting portal so that household accounts can be created. This will allow parents to record results for more than one child without having to re-enter data multiple times.

At an appropriate point in time, once all staff have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and subject to evidence around implementation of the updated self-isolation policy for children and young people, the asymptomatic testing programme will be reviewed. Options may include implementing the programme only in geographical areas where so indicated by community prevalence and based on the advice of the local Director of Public Health/IMT. Decisions on this will be taken on the basis of evidence nearer the time and in line with the wider testing strategy

People in the highest risk group (previously those on the shielding list) 

This guidance applies to those who are at the highest clinical risk from coronavirus.  Read the information on who is considered to be at highest risk along with advice and support for this group, including attending work and school. Everyone in this cohort will have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer advising them that they are on the shielding list or the highest risk list.

The Chief Medical Officer has written to everyone on this list in relation to the move beyond level 0.  His advice is that people at highest risk can continue to follow the same advice as the rest of the population in the context of precautionary measures that remain in place. This is because the vaccination programme is working well and, as the number of people who have been vaccinated rises, everyone will benefit from greater protection, even the small number of people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Evidence continues to emerge about how well the vaccine works for people who are immunosuppressed and on the highest risk list. People with a severely weakened immune system should continue to speak to their clinician to assess their risk.

Over 94% of people at highest risk have now received both doses of the vaccine and nearly 96% have received their first dose. Due to some health conditions, some people cannot receive the vaccine. If anyone is unsure about their circumstances, they may speak with their clinician. Otherwise, anyone on the highest risk list and their family members who haven’t had the vaccine are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice to everyone on the list beyond level 0 is that it is currently safe to go into work if you cannot work from home and that it is safe to use public transport.

It is essential that everyone continues to follow the public health advice and remaining protection measures. Strict adherence to mitigations is strongly encouraged for staff and pupils at highest risk. Mitigations which remain in place for now such as face coverings are not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those at highest clinical risk. It is important to protect each other through getting the vaccination, getting tested, and following the remaining rules and guidance.

It continues to be the employer’s responsibility to regularly carry out workplace risk assessments and put in place measures to make the workplace as safe as is reasonably practicable to try and minimise the risk to staff including contracting COVID-19. In carrying out risk assessments, employers should be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 at all times. Employees also have a responsibility to comply with safe working practices.

It is essential that employers conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment which will help them to identity measures which can be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.  Employers can be asked for copies of the risk assessments for the workplace.

It is advised that those who are at highest risk also carry out an individual risk assessment.  This includes a COVID-Age tool, which employees can use to highlight personal risk and support discussions with employers about any additional adjustments or arrangements that may be needed to make the workplace and duties safe for them. Find advice about individual risk assessments and the COVID-Age tool on gov.scot at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on individual occupational risk assessment - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

Any concerns can be discussed with managers or employers. Further advice is also available from:

  • Occupational Health services provided by your employer, where available
  • a Health and Safety representative in your workplace
  • your workplace’s Human Resources (HR) department
  • your trade union or professional body
  • the Citizens Advice website or the free Citizens Advice Helpline on 0800 028 1456, (Monday to Friday, office hours)
  • the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

There is guidance for employers and employees on making the workplace safe for people  at highest risk. This includes employer responsibilities to carry out regular workplace risk assessments, individual risk assessments, and additional steps people can take to keep themselves safe.

Children and young people in the highest risk group

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice beyond level 0, is that children and young people on the highest risk list can follow the same advice as for the rest of the population. This includes attending education and childcare, unless their clinician has advised them otherwise individually.

Household members of people who are in the highest risk group

Children and young people who live with a person who is at highest risk should attend school in line with arrangements set out in this guidance. All children and young people attending school should comply with the arrangements for the reduction of risks of transmission of the virus within schools, including hand hygiene and the use of face coverings where appropriate.

Household and family members of people at highest risk can also go to work. It is the employers’ responsibility to make sure the workplace and duties are as safe as possible. Household members of people that are at highest risk should discuss their concerns with their employer.

The Chief Medical Officer has encouraged everyone on the highest risk list to ask members of their household over 12 years of age to use the free at-home LFDs, including staff and pupils who can access these at school. We encourage all school staff and pupils in secondary schools who live with someone at highest risk to use the offer of LFD testing, as this will help to find people who don’t have symptoms and would not know they have coronavirus. This can then reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus to a family or household member who is at highest risk.

Pregnancy

It is now recommended that pregnant women have the vaccine. Further information can be found at: Combined info sheet and decision aid 20.07.2021 (rcog.org.uk)

Schools and local authorities should continue to follow their duties and responsibilities under both the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Equality Act 2010. These include ensuring that appropriate individual risk assessments are in place to inform any reasonable adjustments required to remove risk for pregnant women.

Schools and local authorities should follow the guidance set out by the Health and Safety Executive and in the most recent Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advice to keep the risk of exposure as low as is practically possible to pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester.

Normal pregnancy risk assessments should also be undertaken, and careful attention paid to mental health and wellbeing. Schools and local authorities should be sensitive to any anxiety pregnant staff may be feeling, and offer support and solutions to address this wherever possible. Individuals should discuss requirements with their line manager in the first instance. In the event of any concerns that cannot be addressed in this way, they should speak with their local HR or Health and Safety team, as well as their Trade Union representative.

Additional UK-wide guidance on pregnancy is also available: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Outbreak management

Arrangements for joint working between schools, local authorities and local Health Protection Teams (HPTs) remain as before. The definitions of clusters and outbreaks are unchanged. However, guidance has now been updated to make clear that schools are no longer to contact HPTs to notify them of every single confirmed case in a school setting. Single cases will be identified by Test and Protect and close contacts will be identified through them too.

School visits and trips 

Guidance on school visits and trips is available and should continue to be followed. 

Readiness and assurance 

To achieve collective assurance that the education system has in place the arrangements needed to deal with future outbreaks, schools and local authorities should familiarise themselves with the scenarios, expectations and actions set out in the key scenarios chapter (Annex C of the PDF). They should work together to ensure that these actions are complete and that a state of readiness is maintained for as long as is required to deal with the pandemic.

Early learning and childcare 

There is separate guidance for Early Learning and Childcare settings, which (while closely aligned to many of the mitigations in this guidance for schools) reflects the support required for, and the lower transmission risks associated with, very young children

Residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities 

Guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation is published. This has been updated to reflect the latest international travel restrictions and clinical advice on managing specific risks in residential accommodation and is kept under review.


Contact

Email: CERG@gov.scot  

First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 1 Oct 2021 -