Changes to previous guidance
This section sets out the changes that are being introduced by this revised guidance.
Local authorities and schools should ensure that all staff and pupils are aware of these updates and, where modifications to mitigations are required, these changes have been implemented.
Further detail on each is provided in the mitigations in detail section (annex A) where required.
Jump to section:
- minimise contacts
- school visitors
- ventilation and heating
- asymptomatic testing programme
- self-isolation policy (contact tracing and testing)
- outbreak management
- school visits and trips
Minimising contacts through the use of groupings should be reintroduced in indoor spaces where practicable. This provides benefits due to reducing possible vectors of transmission. The size of such groupings might differ depending upon local circumstances and the need to minimise education disruption – for example a grouping might refer to a whole class in primary school, and a whole year group or the senior phase in secondary school. In line with the subsidiarity principle, headteachers / LAs are empowered to make decisions about the best approach for their individual school or setting.
As part of a strengthened approach to minimising contacts, schools should continue to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings. Where it is necessary to bring groups together, alternative mitigating actions should be put in place, such as physical distancing, ventilation, face coverings, meeting outside and limiting the time spent together. As with the existing policy, preliminary examinations remain permitted provided they are held in accordance with this guidance.
The sub-group recognised both that there are significant operational difficulties in requiring groupings on school transport, and the wider context regarding arrangements for public transport. On that basis, maintenance of any groupings used within schools is not required within transport arrangements.
In recognition of the positive impact on the wellbeing of children and young people, supply staff and other professional visitors can continue to visit schools. This includes visiting teachers, psychologists, nurses, social workers, youth workers, outdoor learning specialists, Higher Education Institution (HEI) tutors, SQA staff and appointees (e.g. visiting assessors and visiting verifiers), Education Scotland staff (including HMIE) and those providing therapeutic support. 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. Such visitors should look to reduce the number of schools visited and to limit their contact time with children and young people. They should also take regular lateral flow tests when aysmptomatic. Consideration should be given to the provision of this support by virtual means as appropriate.
Parents/carers may attend 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 a necessary and proportionate measure.
It is imperative that all such visitors to schools should be agreed in advance and arrangements appropriately risk-assessed.
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.
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, including those that involve adults learning within school settings, 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 safety requirements that are operational within the school.
Parent Councils and Parent Teacher Associations should not meet on school premises, and virtual arrangements should be used instead.
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. Aligned with the sub-group advice, all visitors should also be encouraged to have a negative lateral flow test before entering a school.
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 Health Protection Teams (HPTs)on any requirement to pause or further reduce such movement between schools.
Previous guidance on ventilation continues to apply. Some updates for clarity have been added to the main ventilation and heating section in the mitigations in detail section (annex A). In addition, the following strengthened guidance on CO2 monitoring should be followed by local authorities.
Local authorities should ensure that all local authority schools and ELC settings 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 regularly for ventilation issues with a view to remedial action being taken where required. It should be noted that large volume or low occupancy spaces, for example games halls, may require alternative assessments, as CO2 may not be a useful indicator of good ventilation in certain circumstances. See Health and Safety Executive advice on ventilation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Following their initial comprehensive assessment of all local authority learning, teaching and play spaces, which is now complete, local authorities are working to ensure that appropriate strategies for continuing effective CO2 monitoring are in place, with a particular focus on supporting schools to achieve good ventilation balanced with the requirement for user comfort and warmth. Local authorities have developed strategies to suit their local circumstances and workforce requirements. Approximately half of all local authorities have to date indicated their intention to move to operating a 1:1 device/space ratio in suitable learning, teaching and play spaces. Other local authorities are currently making use of mobile monitoring strategies.
Local Authorities should ensure that an appropriate ratio of monitors to spaces is made available to each school, taking account of local circumstances and workforce requirements. Sufficient monitors should be made available for use to enable ongoing decision-making by staff about balancing ventilation (including by opening of doors and windows) with temperature during the winter months, taking account of changes in weather conditions.
Local authorities should re-assess their current arrangements to ensure they have enough devices to allow every learning, teaching and play space to be assessed for a minimum of one full day per week under normal occupancy. Where additional monitors are required to achieve this goal, it is recognised that local authorities will require time to place orders and receive and distribute devices.
Local authorities should also ensure that appropriate local reporting arrangements allow areas of persistent concern to continue to be identified and remedial action taken for any spaces that have been identified as showing higher levels of CO2. More regular monitoring should be considered for any areas of persistent concern until problems have been rectified.
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 at the mitigations in detail section (annex A). This may include, for example:
- remedial works where appropriate (e.g. accelerated maintenance to remedy windows that will not open or faulty ventilation systems)
- providing further guidance to users (e.g. on regular opening of windows and balancing temperature and ventilation, etc.). During the winter months, there should be a particular focus on supporting staff to make judgements around the extent to which windows and doors need to be opened, in order to help them achieve user comfort.
Local authorities and the Scottish Government will continue to work in partnership together to consider the knowledge acquired as a result of these assessments over the winter period, 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. Through this continued partnership working we are already considering longer-term actions to improve ventilation in the school and ELC estate and are working with local authorities and other stakeholders to develop a plan to most effectively gather and share data and user feedback. This will be used to:
- support school/ELC operation during the remainder of the 2021/2022 year
- inform COVID guidance updates
- help future planning towards achieving a legacy of the healthiest learning estate ever
Further detail on commitments in respect of day care of children services are set out in separate ELC guidance, with specific arrangements in place to support the PVI sector.
Additional funding of £10m has been provided to local authorities to support this work in the schools and ELC sectors, in addition to previously provided COVID logistics funding.
It is vitally 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, whether positive, negative or void. Supported by local authority testing leads, schools should make every effort to try and improve uptake and reporting of asymptomatic testing by staff and secondary pupils.
Some additional improvements have been made to processes under the testing programme, to ensure that schools can now hand out test kits more proactively to staff and students, and focus efforts on encouraging greater uptake and reporting.
- reductions in the requirements for schools around keeping test kit logs, which should reduce burdens for school staff
- a move away from the need for written agreement to participate, with acceptance of test kits and completion of the tests at home taken as implied agreement to participate. This brings the programme into line with other testing pathways.
Full guidance on how to implement these new processes has been provided to local authority testing leads for onward communication to schools, and is also available directly to schools via the document sharing platform that supports the programme.
Schools should make every effort to distribute test kits proactively and regularly to staff and secondary pupils in line with the updated guidance for the programme, and encourage participants to test and report results regularly, including over holiday periods and in advance of return. Proactive distribution of test kits to staff and secondary pupils will be particularly important to support the most recent updates to self-isolation guidance, which involve greater use of LFD test kits for index cases and close contacts. Schools should ensure they order and distribute sufficient kits to support staff and secondary pupils to undertake both regular testing and testing when identified as high risk close contacts (see the updated self-isolation section later in this guidance). Primary schools are requested to make parents/carers aware of the universal testing offer, for use particularly in the event that their primary school-aged children are identified as high risk close contacts.
Schools are able to order new, nasal-only test kits to address previous feedback from some participants about the discomfort of throat swabbing, regardless of whether all stocks of previous test kits have been used up. The new types of test kit only take around 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 allows parents to record results for more than one child without having to re-enter data multiple times. Reporting online now takes only a few minutes if participants use their phones.
Local authorities can consider making use of resources under the Targeted Community Testing programme in areas where schools have particularly low uptake and reporting, or where schools indicate there is a high proportion of children and young people who would benefit from some temporary additional support to undertake effective at home testing. The programme is designed to identify and isolate positive cases that may otherwise be missed, by targeting testing and other public health resources at areas where transmission is stubbornly high, rapidly rising, or communities have specific transmission risks. Schools can sometimes be an effective gateway into those communities.
A range of guidance and communications toolkits has previously been made available to local authorities and schools via the programme, and these should continue to be used to support efforts to promote uptake and reporting. These include:
- provision of a one-page good practice note (available at Annex D and to schools via the testing programme document sharing portal)
- provision of a communications toolkit, designed in partnership with YoungScot, in both digital form and hard copy for secondary schools (materials have been mailed direct to all secondary schools at the start of the summer term)
- template reminder letters to parents, asking that they encourage their children at secondary schools to test and report their results regularly
The testing programme will be kept under regular review and any updates communicated to local authorities and schools at the earliest opportunity. As part of this, the Scottish Government will work with stakeholders in the new term to consider whether there is a need for further enhancements to the asymptomatic testing offer. These could include, for example, optional in-school testing models where individual schools judge that secondary pupils may need additional support to test and report effectively.
Self-isolation policy (including contact tracing and testing) - updated approach to high-risk contacts (from 6 Jan 2022)
Based on the latest clinical evidence, revised self-isolation measures will apply to anyone who receives a positive test result or is asked to isolate as a close contact of any SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) strain from Thursday 6 January 2022. Anyone who was asked to self-isolate or who received a positive test before this time should follow the guidance they received at the time (including in relation to the CNI exemption scheme where applicable – see later in this guidance for further details). Read the full guidance on updated self-isolation measures on NHS Inform.
The revised requirements are, in summary:
Positive cases (regardless of vaccination status)
- must isolate for 10 days; however, if the person tests negative on day 6 and day 7 LFD tests (taken at least 24 hours apart, with the first test no earlier than day 6) they may leave isolation if they have no fever after their day 7 test.
Fully vaccinated adult contacts (NB: definition of “fully vaccinated adult” is now 3 doses of an MHRA-approved vaccine) AND all contacts who are aged under 18 years and 4 months
- take 7 daily LFD tests and report negative results instead of isolating – no requirement for a PCR test to be released from self-isolation.
- children aged under 5 who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate or take daily LFD tests, but are recommended to take a one-off LFD test before ending isolation
- if you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following our guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.
Unvaccinated/partially vaccinated adult contacts (NB: this includes adults with only 0-2 doses)
- must take a PCR test and isolate for 10 days
Fully vaccinated individuals who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) within 90 days should still participate in appropriate daily LFD testing in line with NHS guidance when they are identified as contacts. Individuals who have tested positive within 90 days should also continue to participate in routine asymptomatic LFD testing, including testing in schools.
If anyone aged 5 or over is identified as a contact but has been advised by a medical professional that they are unable to undertake LFD tests for a medical reason, or are unable to take LFD tests due to disability, this should be discussed with Test and Protect when they contact them.
For the purposes of this guidance, the references to contacts above relate to those falling within the category of high-risk close contacts, as defined below.
The previous risk-informed approach within schools will continue to apply. That is that all potential contacts (whether defined as 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 follow the appropriate steps based on latest guidance (self-isolation and/or daily LFD testing dependent on age and vaccination status)
- 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 continue to be minimised. 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.
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 and book a PCR test. They must do so even if they have a negative LFD test.
NB: People living in the same household, for example any siblings, may adopt the appropriate approach to self-isolation and/or daily testing while the person with symptoms is awaiting the outcome of a PCR test result. Eligibility depends on vaccination status or age, and is summarised later in this guidance and at NHS Inform.
If someone has had a positive LFD test result with no symptoms, and then goes on to develop symptoms, they do not need a confirmatory PCR test unless advised by a clinician. They do not need to re-start their isolation period. If they develop any of the main symptoms of coronavirus and are concerned, or their symptoms are worsening, they should contact 111 or speak to their GP. In an emergency they should dial 999. Otherwise they should continue to follow the self-isolation advice for positive cases (summarised below).
Any asymptomatic adult or child who tests positive using a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) must self-isolate immediately for 10 days, subject to the latest NHS guidance on LFD testing on days 6 and 7 (see summary below). There is no longer a requirement to book a PCR test to confirm the result unless advised by a clinician, or unless the individual, parent/guardian or carer is planning on applying for the Self-Isolation Support Grant, in which case a confirmatory positive PCR is required. People living in the same household, for example any siblings, must also follow the latest NHS guidance on self-isolation and/or daily testing as close contacts.
Any adult or child who tests positive using PCR tests must self-isolate for 10 days, subject to the latest NHS guidance on LFD testing on days 6 and 7 (see summary below). People living in the same household, for example any siblings, must also follow the latest NHS guidance on self-isolation and daily testing as close contacts.
In summary, anyone testing positive on an LFD or PCR test, must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of age or vaccination status. However, if the person tests negative on day 6 and day 7 LFD tests (taken at least 24 hours apart, with the first test no earlier than day 6) they may leave isolation if they have no fever after their day 7 test.
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.
Test and Protect will gather details of household and non-household 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 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 contacts and should be named on the online form. The naming of contacts is not dependent on vaccination status or whether the contact was in the household or outside, 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 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 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 includes self-isolation and/or appropriate testing in line with NHS guidance (for high risk contacts, dependent on vaccination status and age) or advice on LFD testing and other mitigations (for low risk contacts).
Actions for high risk contacts
All those who are identified as high risk contacts will be advised to adopt the approach that is set out in NHS guidance, dependent on their vaccination status and age. In summary, these are:
Fully Vaccinated Adult Contacts (NB: definition of “fully vaccinated adult” is now 3 doses of an MHRA-approved vaccine) AND all young people aged under 18 years and 4 months
- take 7 daily LFD tests and report negative results instead of isolating – no requirement for a PCR test to be released from self-isolation
- children aged under 5 who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate or take daily LFD tests, but are recommended to take a one-off LFD test before ending isolation
- if any contact develops symptoms at any point during or after the post-contact period, they should isolate and take a PCR test in line with guidance on NHS Inform
- if you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following our guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.
Unvaccinated/partially vaccinated adult contacts (NB: this includes adults with only 0-2 doses)
- must take a PCR test and isolate for 10 days
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
- stay vigilant for symptoms
Impact of self-isolation on staff absences and potential exemptions
The Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Exemption Scheme is ending from 6 January 2022 and being replaced by population-wide changes to isolation policy. However, there may be a need for people who were isolating before 6 January 2022 to continue to attend work under the guidance of that scheme that was in place at the time:
- people who are already daily testing under the CNI scheme from 5 January or earlier should continue to follow the CNI guidance until the end of their isolation period;
- people who were asked to isolate prior to 6 January but who have not yet been able to return to work under the CNI scheme may engage in daily testing and return to work in line with the rules set out in the CNI guidance, if required.
We have set out the previous CNI guidance as it related to education staff. This is included under supporting documents for this guidance.
Health Protection 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. This has been updated to make clear that decisions on prioritisation may need to be taken at a local level in the event of capacity constraints.
The flowchart in the contact tracing and self-isolation diagram section (annex B) 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, and 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. See a full list of sites
- 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 relevant 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. Under the latest self-isolation guidance, fully vaccinated adult close contacts, and those aged under 18 years and 4 months, will no longer be required to take a PCR test but will instead be able to use LFD tests daily for 7 days. Schools should ensure that they have sufficient stocks of LFD test kits to distribute regularly to staff and secondary pupils, for use in regular testing and when identified as high-risk close contacts. Primary schools are encouraged to promote awareness of the universal testing offer to parents/carers, for use in the event that their primary school-aged children are identified as high risk close contacts.
PCR test kits can be ordered by schools using the same digital ordering system as is used for the schools LFD asymptomatic testing programme.
Domestic school day and residential trips scheduled to take place up to the end of December can be completed, however; local authorities and schools will wish to consider the risk assessment for any trip in detail and all additional mitigations that apply due to the update on guidance relating to schools. Pre-visit testing for staff and pupils is strongly recommended. In line with the wider updates to school safety guidance made on 17 December, any groupings should be maintained for the duration of the trip.
Bookings for January 2022 onwards, including those involving overnight stays with no caps on numbers within each dorm/tent can be maintained at the current time, but authorities, schools and venues should ensure that mitigations are in line with the updated in-school guidance. Those organising school trips should ensure that adequate insurance is in place, including financial protection for possible cancellation.
The Scottish Government guidance on school will be updated in line with this Safety in Schools guidance and will continue to be kept under review.
Residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities
See the updated supplementary guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation (annex E). This reflects the latest international travel restrictions and clinical advice on managing specific risks in residential accommodation, and particularly managing boarding pupils’ return to school in January 2022.
Oral health programmes in education settings (introduced November 2021)
The national Childsmile oral health improvement programme and the National Dental Inspection Programme, which were paused as a result of the pandemic, have resumed from autumn 2021. The health protection aspects of the programmes have been reviewed by Public Health Scotland. These programmes help ensure the health and wellbeing needs of children and young people in educational settings. The National Dental Inspection Programme identifies those with dental disease and follows up with a letter to signpost into services. The Childsmile programme delivers toothbrushing and also a targeted fluoride varnish intervention for those most at risk of dental decay.
Guidance for pregnant staff
COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby. 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.
In light of recent data showing that vaccination uptake amongst pregnant women is around 34% have and an increased number of unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID in intensive care, the department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has revised and updated the guidance for pregnant employees and their employers. The key changes to this Guidance and their potential impact are summarised below.
What has changed
Previously the guidance advised:
- all pregnant women should undergo a risk assessment in the workplace and continue to work if it is safe to do so
- women who are 28 weeks pregnant and over should take a more precautionary approach in light of the increased risk
The revised guidance advises:
- all pregnant women who are vaccinated should undergo a risk assessment in the workplace and continue to work if it is safe to do so
- pregnant women who are unvaccinated at any gestation should take a more precautionary approach in light of the increased risk
School staff who are pregnant at any gestation must have a workplace risk assessment with their school/local authority and occupational health team. Having a COVID-19 vaccine does not remove the requirement for schools and local authorities to carry out a risk assessment for pregnant employees. They should only continue to work if the risk assessment advises it is safe to do so. We advise continuing to use the Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance on individual occupational risk assessment and tool.
However, it is worth noting that the risk assessment tool does not take into account pregnancy or a person’s vaccination status, and it should form only part of the individual risk assessment process. Careful attention should be paid to mental health and wellbeing and 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. Schools and local authorities should also continue to factor in workplace risks and control measures that can be put in place to protect staff as well as the local prevalence of the virus.
Any risk posed to the member of staff should be removed or managed and if this is not possible, they should be offered suitable alternative work or working arrangements (including working from home). If alternative work cannot be found, advice on suspension and pay can be found in HSE guidance.
Women who are pregnant with significant congenital or acquired heart disease continue to be on the Scottish Government’s Highest Risk List. Everyone on this list is currently advised to follow the same measures and guidance as the rest of the population, including on-going into the workplace if they can’t work from home.
Non vaccinated or not fully vaccinated women who are pregnant have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID. Schools and local authorities should undertake a workforce risk assessment as set out above and, where appropriate, consider both how to redeploy these staff and how to maximise the potential for homeworking, wherever possible.
Where adjustments to the work environment and role are not possible and alternative work cannot be found, staff should be suspended on paid leave. Advice on suspension and pay can be found in HSE guidance.
Boards may wish to use previous mitigations and options utilised for those who were on the Highest Risk (previously Shielding) List, depending on individual needs and risks assessed.
Children and young people with additional support needs
Every child and young person will have different levels of required support. Risk assessments play a key part in considering the individual needs of a child or young person. Risk assessments, which may be integrated into a Child’s Plan, should already exist for children and young people with complex additional support needs. These risk assessments should be reviewed and updated as appropriate, reflecting current circumstances. Where they are not in place or they have not been updated they must be undertaken or reviewed swiftly. Where there is a need to work in close proximity with adults and children and young people the safety measures to protect adults and children and young people alike should be followed. Staff should wear a face covering or PPE (where appropriate e.g. when carrying out Aerosol Generating Procedures), and regularly wash their hands before and after contact. Guidance on supporting children and young people with additional support needs is published by the Scottish Government.
School uniform policies (updated November 2021)
Given the need for effective ventilation during the winter months, schools and local authorities should consider the use of less restrictive uniform policies to help ensure that children and young people can stay warm in school buildings. For example, they should be sympathetic to requests to wear additional layers / jackets in cooler temperatures. Staff may also consider what clothing helps them stay comfortable, as their experience may influence the control of heating and ventilation decisions. Local authority CO2 monitoring programmes can also help building users make judgements to achieve an appropriate balance between ventilation and warmth in school buildings, for example by assessing the extent to which window opening is required in specific spaces to maintain levels of CO2 that are consistent with good ventilation. Further guidance on potentially useful strategies to adopt can be found in the main ventilation guidance in the mitigations in details section (annex A).
A number of recent changes have been made to the guidance for the current school session. Information on these is retained below for ease of reference, with small edits to bring the text up-to-date where applicable.
Vaccination (updated January 2022)
All schools should encourage staff who have not been fully vaccinated to seek vaccination as soon as possible, following the recommended gap between doses. Read NHS Inform information on securing an appointment.
The latest JCVI advice on vaccination for children and young people, which the Scottish Government has decided, in agreement with Governments across the UK, to follow, is in summary:
- all adults aged 18+ are now eligible for a booster vaccine, in addition to their first two doses
- all 16 and 17 year-olds are eligible for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. They should also be offered a normal booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine no sooner than 3 months after completion of their primary course
- all 12-15 year olds are eligible for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. This offer comes in addition to the 12 to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions who were already eligible for a second dose
- children and young people aged 12 to 15 who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed should also be offered a normal booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine no sooner than 3 months after completion of their primary course
- children and young people aged 12 to 15 years who are severely immunosuppressed and who have had a third primary dose should also be offered a normal booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine no sooner than 3 months after completion of their primary course. Appointments are not available for this group at the time of writing. More details will be available soon about when these children will be offered a vaccine – these will be published on NHS Inform.
- children aged 5-11 years in a clinical risk group, or who are household contacts of someone who is immunosuppressed, should be offered two 10 micrograms doses of Pfizer with an interval of 8 weeks
- children and young people aged 12 to 17 who have a positive PCR test result must wait a minimum of 12 weeks post the date of the positive test before receiving any vaccine dose, unless a clinician recommends otherwise
In response to rising cases of the new Omicron variant, the Scottish Government announced an acceleration of the vaccination programme with a focus on COVID boosters. Read the latest information on eligibility and access to appointments and drop-in vaccination on NHS Inform.
Information is available on NHS Inform along with access to the self-registration portal. Public Health Scotland has produced an information leaflet for 16-17 year-olds and materials for 12-15 year-olds are also available.
See a list of drop in clinics across mainland health boards with 12 to 17 year olds eligible to attend those offering Pfizer.
Those without online access can call the National Helpline on 0800 030 8013.
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 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 the mitigations in detail section (annex A).
Dedicated school 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.
Existing arrangements for cleaning, hygiene and ventilation on school transport should continue and they remain important mitigations alongside the wearing of face coverings.
Subsequent clarification of mitigations required where physical distancing is not possible in private hire vehicles was added in November 2021. Detail covering all of these mitigations is in the mitigations in detail section (annex A)
Drama, music, PE and dance (updated August 2021)
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.).
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 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’s advice is that people at highest risk can continue to follow the same advice as the rest of the population in the context of the baseline measures that remain in place. We do not know a lot about the new Omicron variant yet. However, what we do know with certainty is that following the usual protective measures, including having vaccinations and boosters, will help to reduce its spread. We know these measures are effective and we are continuing to encourage everyone to follow them to protect us all. A recent study by the World Health Organization shows that the vaccination programme has saved more than 27,000 lives in Scotland. 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.
Over 95% of people at highest risk are now fully vaccinated and 96% have received their first dose. Only a very small number of people cannot receive the vaccine due to their condition or treatment. 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. In addition, around 83% of people on the Highest Risk List have received their third dose or booster vaccination. Vaccination figures are updated on the COVID-19 Daily Dashboard | Tableau Public. Due to the new variant, it’s more important than ever that everyone who can has their booster vaccination. People with a severely weakened immune system should continue to speak to their clinician to assess their risk.
The Chief Medical Officer’s advice to everyone on the list is that they can go into work if they cannot work from home and that they can use public transport.
It is essential that everyone continues to follow the public health advice and protective measures set out in this guidance. Strict adherence to mitigations is strongly encouraged for staff and pupils at highest risk. Mitigations which remain in place for now 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.
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).
Read the guidance for employers and employees on making the workplace safer 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 safer.
Children and young people in the highest risk group
The Chief Medical Officer’s advice, 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 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 required.
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.
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 contacts will be identified through them too. Local Health Protection Teams may need to prioritise the settings they engage with in the event of very high case numbers and local capacity constraints.
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 (annex C). 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.