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
Overview

Overview

This version of the guidance supersedes those in place during the 2021/22 academic year to date, and reflects the change in the balance of risks following the emergence of the Omicron variant. It sets out that local authorities and schools should continue to apply the mitigations that are currently in place, as well as reintroducing some measures that had previously been relaxed.

The Advisory Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues (‘the sub-group’) as well as senior clinicians have provided advice on these changes based upon the latest clinical and public health assessment of the situation. Following that advice, Ministers decided that strengthening mitigations at this stage is important and necessary as part of a society-wide drive to minimise transmission.

All children, young people and staff should continue to implement and strictly observe these mitigations. 

This guidance was updated on 5 January 2022 to reflect further changes to self-isolation policy that will take effect from 6 January 2022.

Key changes to previous iterations of the guidance that have been introduced from 17 December 2021 are:

  • a strengthened approach to minimising contacts, primarily through the reintroduction of groupings where practicable indoors
  • tightened restrictions on school visitors, including a return to parent councils and other activities being precluded from operating on the school estate
  • updated guidance on the required approach to ventilation and CO2 monitoring, including clarification of some key points based on user feedback
  • updated text on asymptomatic testing, specifically the processes to be followed when distributing test kits
  • a revised approach to self-isolation for high risk contacts from 6 January 2022, taking account of the latest expert advice and progress with the booster programme
  • an update to guidance on school visits and trips in order to reflect the above ‘in school’ mitigations
  • updated information on vaccination eligibility following JCVI advice
  • a requirement that schools and local authorities continue to provide essential in-person support for particular groups (including vulnerable children and young people) in the event of temporary school closures at a local level
  • minor updates across the annexes to bring material up to date

Local authorities and schools should implement these changes as soon as is practicable from the start of the January term in line with local circumstances. In addition, as advised by the sub-group, attention should be paid to maximum compliance with all current measures (such as appropriate physical distancing, one-way systems, asymptomatic testing, and the correct use of face-coverings) to help to reduce transmission.

The table below summarises the current approach for key mitigations:

Mitigation

Status

Risk assessment

Retain

Encouragement of vaccination

Retain (note updated eligibility following JCVI advice)

Environmental cleaning

Retain

Hand and respiratory hygiene

Retain

PPE in specific circumstances

Retain

Face coverings in communal areas

Retain

Face coverings in secondary classrooms

Retain

Physical distancing for adults

Retain

One-way systems

Retain

Staggered drop-off and pick-up

Retain

Staggered start and stop times/ break and lunch times

Retain

Restrictions on assemblies

Retain

Support for people in the highest risk groups

Retain

Support for pregnant staff

Retain

2x weekly at-home asymptomatic testing

Retain

Outbreak management

Retain

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for adults 18+

Update in line with latest advice

Self-isolation, contact tracing and testing for U18s

Update in line with latest advice

Minimise contacts

Proportionate reintroduction

Ventilation

 Strengthen

Restrictions on school visitors

Proportionate reintroduction

Restrictions on Drama, Music, PE and Dance

Not required

School Transport

Retain 

Limits on school trips

Proportionate reintroduction

Readiness and assurance

Retain

Residential accommodation

Retain

In the event of a significant outbreak, schools may be expected and supported by their local health protection teams (HPTs) to introduce further mitigations (as HPT advise) for a temporary basis and while that outbreak is managed. Where that is the case, local HPTs will support schools in that process and help ensure that any temporary mitigations are necessary, sufficient and proportionate dependent upon local circumstances.

The mitigations in detail section (annex A) sets out detailed guidance on the application of mitigations and other safety measures. It has been updated to take account of evolving knowledge and experience of dealing with the pandemic, and to remove out-of-date material. Otherwise this material remains largely in line with previous versions of the Reducing Risks guidance and schools and local authorities will be familiar with much of the content.

Mitigations will continue to be kept under constant review, and if data and evidence suggest that the approach to any specific mitigations should be updated then advice will be provided to that effect.

Risk assessment

It is a legal requirement that local authorities and headteachers ensure that risk assessments are conducted and regularly reviewed and updated (including at points when the guidance is updated). In implementing this guidance, it is imperative that schools and local authorities continue to take a balanced approach, and take every appropriate step to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff in schools. Full guidance on the risk assessment process is in the mitigations in detail section (annex A).


Contact

Email: CERG@gov.scot  

First published: 25 Mar 2021 Last updated: 7 Jan 2022 -