Key Public Health Measures
13. This section of the guidance sets out the key public health measures that local authorities and schools should implement to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission and infection. These controls, when implemented alongside updated risk assessments, will help substantially reduce the risks to children, young people and staff and ensure a safe, successful return to school.
14. This guidance is designed to promote a consistent and equitable approach against the context of the nationwide health emergency. Every school is different, however, and local authorities and schools will understand best how this guidance can be applied in their settings. They should do so in a way that prioritises the health, safety and wellbeing of children, young people and staff, and ensure that the risk mitigation measures set out in this guidance are implemented effectively.
15. Employers must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect children, young people, staff and others from COVID-19 within the education setting.
16. It is a legal requirement that local authorities and headteachers ensure that risk assessments are conducted or updated to reflect the revised planning assumption of a full return to school. Implementation of the mitigations set out in this section will help manage risks effectively for children, young people and staff returning to full-time learning.
17. All aspects of the return to school should be considered, including transport to and from school and for learners attending college and work placement activities. Specific risk assessments should be completed regarding school cleaning and the use of school kitchens, including those used for home economics. This does not replace the need for other risk assessments required by law, such as under fire safety legislation. All risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and as circumstances change.
18. Schools should ensure that they implement pragmatic and proportionate control measures which reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practical level. They should have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are:
- working as planned; and
- updated appropriately considering any issues identified and changes in public health advice.
19. In accordance with relevant legislation and guidance, all local trade unions should be consulted with and involved in the development of risk assessments. Risk assessments should be shared with staff and trade unions, including catering and facilities management teams and contractors where appropriate.
20. Schools should communicate with all school staff, children, young people and parents/carers regarding health and safety. It is imperative that all members of the school community understand what measures are being put in place and why, and can cooperate to make them work. Schools may wish to consult children, young people and parents/carers on these arrangements to help ensure that they feel safe and comfortable in school.
21. While intended for wider use, the Health and Safety Executive has produced helpful guidance on COVID-19 risk assessments.
22. For more information on what is required of employers in relation to health and safety risk assessments, see Annex B.
Public health measures to prevent and respond to infections
23. In order to address the risks identified in their risk assessments, local authorities and schools should adopt core public health measures in a way that is appropriate to their setting. Ensuring a positive learning environment for all children and young people, should include measures focused on preventing and responding to infections.
24. Essential public health measures include:
- enhanced hygiene and environmental cleaning arrangements;
- minimising contact with others (groupings, maintaining distancing for young people in secondary schools and physical distancing for adults);
- wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary;
- a requirement that people who are ill stay at home; and
- active engagement with Test and Protect.
Enhanced hygiene and environmental cleaning
25. Schools should encourage and support all children, young people, staff and any others for whom it is necessary to enter the school estate to maintain COVID-secure personal hygiene throughout the day.
26. The key COVID-secure personal hygiene measures that all children, young people and staff should follow are:
- frequent washing/sanitising of hands for 20 seconds and drying thoroughly, and always when entering/leaving the building, before/after eating and after using the toilet;
- encouraging children, young people and staff to avoid touching their faces including mouth, eyes and nose; and
- using a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze, and use bins that are emptied regularly for tissue waste.
27. It will be the responsibility of every individual in the school to observe good hygiene practice to minimise the risk of infection. Schools should identify opportunities to reinforce for all children, young people and staff the importance of COVID-secure hygiene measures throughout the school day, as part of their work on responsible citizenship. Involving children and young people in discussions about how to manage mitigations will be critical to their success. Signage should be applied appropriately, including in toilets.
28. Adequate facilities should be available for hand hygiene, including handwashing facilities that are adequately stocked or have alcohol-based hand rub at key areas. Outdoor hand basins or hand sanitisers should be available at entry/exit points, to allow all building users to wash/sanitise their hands as they enter/leave the building at pick up/drop off time and at break/lunch times. Help should be given to those children and young people who struggle to wash their hands independently. Over time it is possible that children and young people will become complacent about hand hygiene. Schools should involve them in making plans to ensure continued rigour.
29. School uniforms/clothing and staff clothing should be washed/cleaned as normal. Any arrangements in place to support washing of school uniform and clothing should be continued.
Enhanced environmental cleaning
30. If the school site or building has been closed for many weeks or if parts of the building have been out of use for a long period, the local authority/school should undertake a health and safety check of the building concerned, including water quality sampling for legionella and other bacteria.
31. Local authorities and schools should ensure that an enhanced environmental cleaning regime is in place. The regime put in place should be in line with Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings. This specifies in particular:
- Ensuring regular detergent cleaning schedules and procedures are in place using a product which is active against bacteria and viruses;
- Ensuring regular (at least twice daily) cleaning of commonly touched objects and surfaces (e.g. desks, handles, dining tables, shared technology surfaces etc.);
- Ensuring that where possible movement of individuals between work stations is minimised and where work spaces are shared there is cleaning between use (e.g. avoid hot desks and instead each individual, children, young people and staff, has a designated desk);
- Ensuring there are adequate disposal facilities;
- Wedging doors (other than fire doors) open, where appropriate, to reduce touchpoints;
- Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and physical distancing is achieved as much as possible; and
- Cleaning work vehicles, between different passengers or shifts as appropriate.
32. There should also be more frequent cleaning of rooms/areas that must be used by different groups, including staff (e.g. classrooms, toilet blocks, changing rooms and staff areas).
33. Movement of children, young people and staff between classrooms should be minimised wherever possible. Where this cannot be avoided, the provision of appropriate cleaning supplies to enable them to wipe down their own desk/chair/surfaces before leaving and, especially, on entering the room should be considered as part of overall hygiene strategies for secondary schools.
34. Careful consideration should be given to the cleaning regime for specialist equipment (e.g. in practical subjects or for children with additional support needs), sensory rooms, practical subjects with specialist equipment and dining halls, etc. to ensure safe use. Staff can safely eat in the dining hall if they wish. They should use their own crockery/cutlery in staff areas and ensure these are cleaned with warm general purpose detergent and dried thoroughly before being stored for re-use.
35. It is recommended that younger children access toys and equipment that are easy to clean. Resources such as sand, water and playdough should be used only by consistent groupings of children and should be part of relevant risk assessments. Children and young people should wherever possible be encouraged not to bring toys from home to the setting or to share their personal belongings, although it is appreciated that for younger children this may be difficult to prevent. Consideration should be given to practical alternatives to provide comfort and reassurance, which is particularly important for younger children and children with additional needs. However, if a child brings their own book/bag/personal device that only they use then this should not increase the risk of indirect spread of the virus. Children, young people and staff should be instructed to keep bags on the floor and not on their desks or worktops.
36. Children, young people and staff can take books and other resources home, although unnecessary resource sharing including textbooks should be avoided, especially where this does not contribute to education and development. Cleaning between uses should be in accordance with the Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings. Assist FM have also published complementary guidance on cleaning for local authorities with helpful practical advice on cleaning schedules.
37. Library books should be quarantined for 72 hours upon return to the library. The amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surface is likely to have decreased significantly after this time. School libraries should develop quarantine procedures for returned books and resources. Book drops and book trolleys can be used as they are easy for staff to wheel into a dedicated quarantine area and can be easily labelled.
38. Schools should ensure adequate levels of ventilation. Where centralised or local mechanical ventilation is present, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air. If this is not possible systems should be operated as normal. Where ventilation units have filters present enhanced precautions should be taken when changing filters. Ventilation systems should be checked or adjusted to ensure they do not automatically adjust ventilation levels due to differing occupancy levels.
39. Wherever it is safe to do so, doors and windows should be kept open to increase natural ventilation (this advice will be reviewed as we head into the winter months). This will also help to reduce contact with door handles. However, internal fire doors should never be held open (unless assessed and provided with appropriate hold open and self-closing mechanisms which respond to the actuation of the fire alarm system). The Fire Safety Risk Assessment should always be reviewed before any internal doors are held open.
Minimising contact between individuals and groups
40. The COVID-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues has published scientific advice on physical distancing in schools. The advice states:
"Subject to continued suppression of the virus, and to surveillance and mitigations being in place, the balance of the evidence suggests that no distancing should be required between children in primary schools. The evidence is less clear for older pupils but at present we support the same approach being taken in secondary schools on the basis of the balance of known risks, the effectiveness of mitigations and the benefits to young people of being able to attend school."
41. It goes on to state:
"In both primary and secondary settings, the preference would always be to avoid large gatherings and crowded spaces and, wherever possible, to keep children and young people within the same groups for the duration of the school day. In giving this advice we recognise the practical challenges. Where possible, timetabling should be reviewed to reduce movement of groups of pupils around the school estate as much as possible."
42. It is important to understand that this advice has been developed by the sub-group in the specific context of schools. There are sound reasons for approaches to physical distancing to vary in different contexts, including the drawing of judgements about cumulative risk across the whole of society and the features of distinct environments.
Physical distancing between children in primary schools
43. On the basis of the scientific advice, and subject to all other risk mitigation measures set out in this advice being appropriately implemented, there is no requirement for physical distancing between children in primary schools.
Maintaining distance between young people - secondary schools
44. The scientific advice is that physical distancing between young people in secondary schools is not required to ensure a safe return to schools.
45. The evidence for this is less clear for older pupils, but at present this approach is being advised for secondary schools on the basis of the balance of known risks, the effectiveness of mitigations and the benefits to young people of being able to attend school.
46. However, within the context of a full return to school, and to provide additional reassurance to young people, staff and parents/carers, where there are opportunities to further minimise risk these should be encouraged. As a precautionary approach therefore secondary schools should encourage distancing where possible between young people particularly in the senior phase.
47. Distancing should be implemented in a proportionate way. Importantly, schools should ensure that the specific approaches adopted do not introduce capacity constraints and/or prevent a return to full-time learning in school.
48. Mitigations that schools may consider could include:
- Encourage young people to maintain distance where possible, particularly indoors - this does not have to be strict distancing of 2m if this is unachievable, but encouraging young people not to crowd together or touch their peers is recommended.
- Discourage social physical contact (hand to hand greeting/hugs)
- Use all the available space in classrooms, halls, libraries or social spaces to promote distancing where possible.
- Adjust class space if required, and where possible, to maintain spacing between desks or between individual young people
- Seat young people side by side and facing forwards, rather than face to face
- Avoid situations that require young people to sit or stand in direct physical contact with others.
- Where young people need to move about within the classroom to perform activities (for example to access a shared resource) this should be organised to minimise congregation around the point of access to the shared resource.
- Where staffing within the school allows it, consider altering class sizes and composition to intensify support for young people and create more space. For example, where there are 3 maths sets in a year group (one set with 30 pupils, another with 20 pupils and another with 10 pupils) class size and composition may be altered to improve the spread of pupils and create 3 sets of 20 pupils.
- Young people in the senior phase may require to spend time in college environments - guidance for colleges has been published.
49. Secondary schools should consider which of these possible mitigations are achievable in their establishment, bearing in mind that this distancing is an additional, precautionary step, which goes beyond what is recommended in the current scientific advice on the re-opening of schools.
Minimising contacts (groupings)
50. In line with the scientific advice, in both primary and secondary settings, wherever possible, efforts should be made to keep children and young people within the same groups for the duration of the school day. Consistent groups reduce the likelihood of direct transmission, allow for quicker identification of those who need to self-isolate and may reduce the overall number of children, young people and staff who need to isolate in the event of a positive test or COVID-19.
51. Schools should make efforts to keep groups apart from other groups where possible. In open plan settings with large numbers of children or young people (for example multiple classes in one open plan space) consideration should be given to ensuring clear demarcation and separation between the areas in which different groups learn. Schools should consider how to reduce the movement of groups across different parts of the school estate where possible. In particular, schools should avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings.
52. Where it is necessary to bring groups together, alternative mitigating actions should be put in place, such as limiting the time spent together. Guidance about the maximum size of gatherings allowed in wider society in Scotland (eg places of worship) may provide a suitable benchmark for the advisable maximum size of a single group activity within a school at the time of reopening. When undertaking fire test drills or procedures where the whole school is evacuated, schools and local authorities should consider muster points and whether these need to be altered to ensure a greater degree of separation.
53. The approach taken to configuring groups should be risk-based and adapted to the specific circumstances of the school. The general approach should be to keep groups consistent where practically possible, taking into account the feasibility of doing this while delivering a broad, meaningful curriculum and promoting children and young people's health and wellbeing.
54. Examples that schools may draw on include:
- in primary schools it may be appropriate to have groups organised according to full-class sizes. Where staffing within the school allows it, schools may consider altering class sizes and composition to intensify support for children and create more space;
- for young people in secondary schools within the BGE, consideration may be given to keeping pupils in the same groupings across the curriculum. Where possible, consideration may be given to teaching whole/ half year group blocks in as close to tutor group sections as possible while the guidance on "minimising contacts" is in place; and
- for those young people in the senior phase where consistent groups cannot reasonably be maintained, schools will wish to consider the most appropriate delivery and timetabling models to keep mixing of young people to the minimum necessary while ensuring a full range of subjects can be offered. One option may be working together in a group for extended blocks of time. Another may be for the senior phase to be considered as a group in and of itself, with senior pupils kept away from other age groups where possible. Where staffing within the school allows it, schools may consider altering class sizes and composition to intensify support for young people and create more space. Schools may also wish to consider other ideas such as timetabling in double periods (or more) to minimise contacts if this is practical or achievable in their context.
55. The practical and timetabling challenges of these approaches, particularly in secondary schools, are recognised. The variation in size, context and physical structure across schools is also recognised. If groups cannot reasonably be maintained, or if groups require to be larger in size with some mixing permitted, the application of other risk mitigation measures becomes even more important.
56. These will require coordination of other services such as transport, catering and cleaning. Mitigations should be considered as part of risk assessments and may include:
- ensuring access to hand washing stations or hand sanitiser whenever children and young people move between groups;
- minimising frequency of change of groups for children and young people in a day;
- arranging for staff to move to class groups (as opposed to vice versa); and
- encouraging distancing where possible when in different groups (in secondary schools).
57. Passing briefly in the corridor or playground is considered low risk, but risk assessments should consider the ways in which busy corridors, entrances and exits could be avoided, and could include one way and/or external circulation routes.
58. It is recognised that break times will also require careful consideration. Schools may wish to consider staggered break and lunch times, etc (although these will not be suitable for all schools, and staggering break and lunch times to an extent that they could reduce the overall amount of time children and young people can spend learning in school should be avoided). Localised solutions should be agreed and, as far as possible, children, young people and parents/carers should be involved in these discussions.
59. If children and young people go offsite for lunch, they should follow the rules in place for wider society, for example wearing a face covering when entering a shop. Risk assessments should consider procedures for when children and young people leave and return to school premises, including hand hygiene. Schools may wish to contact local shops in advance to alert them to plans.
60. For children and young people who attend multiple education settings, either in other educational establishments or the wider community, consideration should be given to their groupings and an appropriate risk assessment conducted.
61. It is important to emphasise that both the approaches of maintaining distance between young people (in secondary schools) and the use of groups are not all-or-nothing approaches. These will bring public health benefits even if logistics mean they can be implemented only partially (e.g. with groups maintained for the majority of the day but some limited mixing into wider groups permitted for specialist subjects or transport, etc.). Schools should apply proportionate, risk-based approaches to implementation of distancing and the use of groups.
Physical distancing and minimising contact for adults
62. Two metre physical distancing between adults, and between adults and children and young people who are not from the same household should be maintained. This includes non-staff adult visitors to the school eg contractors, deliveries etc. Adult visitors to schools should be strictly limited only to those that are necessary to support children and young people or the running of the school and arrangements should be communicated clearly to staff and the wider school community.
63. Maintaining 2m distancing between adults and children whenever possible will help mitigate risk, but it is acknowledged that this is not always possible or desirable, particularly when working with younger primary school children or children with additional support needs who may require personal or intimate care. For the early stage (P1-P2), schools may consider making use of ELC models of managing children's interactions and other mitigations, where appropriate, particularly where adopting a play based approach. Detailed guidance for ELC settings is available.
64. Where adults cannot keep 2m distance and are interacting face-to-face for a sustained period (about 15 minutes or more), face coverings should be worn (or, in certain limited circumstances, PPE - see section on PPE and other protective barrier measures, below).
65. Movement between schools (e.g. of temporary/supply/peripatetic staff etc) should be kept to a minimum, until further notice. This includes attendance at school of those who visit, such as visiting teachers, psychologists, nurses and social workers. Recognising the importance of holistic support for children and young people requirement to meet their needs, every effort should be made to secure these wider inputs through lower risk methods such as digital/virtual means or outdoor settings.
66. As cleaning regimes will be enhanced, the extent to which cleaners will be able to move between locations may be constrained depending on local circumstances (see "Enhanced Hygiene and Environmental Cleaning", above).
67. Where movement across locations is necessary to deliver school operations the number of interactions should be minimised, and the 2m distancing between adults should be adhered to wherever possible.
68. All staff can operate across different classes and year groups within a setting where this is necessary in order to facilitate the delivery of the school timetable. Where staff need to move between classes and year groups, they should try and keep 2m distancing from learners and other staff as much as they can.
69. With regard to movement of NCCT teachers between classes and across settings, this is permitted but should be minimised wherever possible. Schools should be encouraged to follow SNCT and LNCT guidance on how flexibility of time over a 2 or 4 week period may help to reduce movement of staff across classes.
70. Schools should plan how shared staff spaces are set up and used to help staff to distance from each other. The number of people in staff rooms at any one time should be limited to ensure distancing can be maintained.
71. Any facilities management work carried out within the school setting should adhere to the principles of physical distancing and be subject to risk assessment to put in place mitigating actions. Procedures should be put in place for deliveries to minimise person-to-person contact.
Drop off/pick up
72. The arrangements for parents/carers to drop off and collect children and young people require careful consideration, to ensure that large gatherings of people can be avoided and physical distancing between adults and children of different groupings is maintained. Schools should consult parents/carers on their plans and ensure that any arrangements put in place are communicated clearly to parents/carers.
73. Parents should not enter school buildings unless required. Some approaches that local authorities and schools may consider include the following:
- staggered drop off/pick up times or locations, so that not all children and young people arrive onsite at one time as long as this does not reduce the overall amount of learning time in school for children and young people;
- if the school has additional access points, consideration may be given to whether it would be beneficial to open these to reduce congestion;
- consideration may be given to where children and young people go as they arrive at the facility. This could include heading straight to their group's designated learning space/classroom, which could be indoors or outdoors;
- if parents/carers are dropping off younger children, they should be discouraged from gathering outside the school and should maintain distancing of 2m, as far as practicable, when dropping off their children. Appropriate markings may be introduced at the school gates;
- for those arriving by car, parents/carers may be encouraged to park further away from the school and then walk with their children to avoid congestion, or alternatively use active travel routes where feasible. Car-sharing with children and young people of other households should be discouraged;
- where learning spaces can be accessed directly from outside, this may be encouraged to decrease interactions between individuals in circulation spaces;
- particular consideration should be given to the arrangements for parents/carers of children and young people with additional support needs or disabilities, who may normally drop their children off within the school building, and those who arrive at school using school transport, including taxis.
PPE and other protective barrier measures
74. For the majority of staff in schools, PPE will not normally be required or necessary. Where it is required or necessary, the following arrangements will apply.
75. Schools and local authorities already have set risk assessment processes for the use of PPE. Following any risk assessment (individual or organisational), where the need for PPE has been identified it should be readily available and provided and staff should be trained on its use. The use of PPE by staff within schools should be based on a clear assessment of risk and need for an individual child or young person, such as personal care, where staff come into contact with blood and body fluids or lift children and young people.
Risk assessments should already exist for children and young people with more complex needs, including those with emotional and behavioural needs. These risk assessments should be updated as a matter of priority in light of changes to provision such as environment and staffing.
76. Local infection control procedures that outline safety and protocols should also be stringently followed. This includes procedures for the disposal of soiled items; laundering of any clothes, towels or linen; and cleaning equipment for children and young people, such as hoists and wheelchairs.
77. Specific guidance has been developed and published for first responders (COVID-19: guidance for first responders) who, as part of their normal roles, provide immediate assistance requiring close contact until further medical assistance arrives. This guidance sets out clearly what a first responder is required to do if they come into close contact with someone as part of their first responder duties. It covers the use of PPE and CPR.
78. The types of PPE required in specific circumstances are set out below:
- Routine activities: No PPE is required when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom or school settings.
- Suspected COVID-19: Gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn by staff if a child or young person becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and needs direct personal care.
- Eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.
- Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning the areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been.
- Intimate care: Gloves and aprons should continue to be used when providing intimate care to a child or young person. This can include personal, hands-on care such as washing, toileting, or first aid and certain clinical procedures such as assisted feeding.
- Fluid-resistant surgical masks and eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.
- Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning equipment or surfaces that might be contaminated with body fluids such as saliva or respiratory secretions.
Face coverings [Note: updated effective from 31st August 2020]
79. The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues has provided updated advice on the issue of face coverings in schools, in light of the latest scientific evidence and the advice of the World Health Organisation, which was published on 21st August 2020.
80. The advice notes that the volume of evidence supporting the initial scientific position on a key benefit of face coverings (protection of others from infection by the wearer) has grown. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that the wearer of a face covering can be protected.
81. This section of the school reopening guidance has been updated in light of the advisory group's updated advice, and the feedback received from stakeholders on the early experiences of school reopening.
82. Face coverings should not be confused with PPE. Use of face coverings in the circumstances set out in this guidance should be seen as just one mitigation within a package of measures. The other mitigation measures in this guidance, including physical distancing for adults, environmental cleaning, personal hand and respiratory hygiene, grouping of young people and maintaining distancing between young people in secondary schools where possible, remain vitally important.
83. Anyone (whether child, young person or adult) wishing to wear a face covering in school should be permitted to do so.
84. Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. Further information on exemptions can be found in wider Scottish Government guidance.
85. Face coverings should not generally be required in classrooms or other learning and teaching environments. However, face coverings should be worn by adults where they cannot keep 2m distance and are interacting face-to-face for a sustained period (about 15 minutes or more) with other adults and/or children and young people.
86. Face coverings should also be worn in the following circumstances (except where an adult or child/young person is exempt from wearing a covering):
- where adults and young people in secondary schools (including special schools and independent and grant aided schools) are moving about the school in corridors and confined communal areas (including toilets) where physical distancing is particularly difficult to maintain; and
- in line with the current arrangements for public transport, where adults and children and young people aged 5 and over are travelling on dedicated school transport (see School Transport section).
This approach reflects precautionary judgements based on the latest scientific advice and the experience of school reopening to date. It is limited to the specific environments identified above for the following reasons:
- These are areas where mixing between different (age) groups is more likely, increasing the potential for transmission of the virus;
- Experience and feedback has demonstrated that crowding and close contact in these areas is more likely, and that voices may be raised resulting in greater potential for creation of aerosols;
- The scope for effective ventilation is often less;
- There are less compelling counter-balancing arguments regarding the potential impact of face coverings on educational outcomes in these areas of the school estate; and
- For school transport, the adoption of an approach to face coverings applying to children and young people aged 5 and over will be consistent with the current approach on public transport.
87. Face coverings may also play a particularly important role when prevalence rises, and their use may be increased in specific local contexts on the basis of risk assessments and local factors, including as follows:
- Local Incident Management Teams may recommend a further strengthening of the use of face coverings in other areas of the school (e.g. classrooms) when dealing with local outbreaks (see Outbreak Management).
- Individual local authorities and secondary schools (including special schools and independent and grant aided schools) may wish, following the relevant local authority processes and appropriate risk assessment and consultation with school communities, to consider strengthening the use of face coverings in other areas of the school (e.g. classrooms) to address specific local circumstances (e.g. particular concerns or anxieties around distancing or confidence building in the context of local or wider outbreaks).
An example of this local "stepping up" of measures may be the use of face coverings in secondary school classrooms where any form of distancing is impossible, in circumstances where increased community transmission is being seen.
88. In making any such local decisions on the stepping up of use of face coverings, it will remain vitally important to consider the potential impact on children and young people, including via the appropriate use of Equality Impact Assessments. The impact of wearing a face covering for learners with additional support needs, including any level of hearing loss, should be carefully considered, as communication for many of these learners (including hearing impaired young people) relies in part on being able to see someone's face clearly. This is also important for children and young people who are acquiring English and who rely on visual cues to enable them to be included in learning. Individuals who may not be able to handle and wear face coverings as directed (e.g. young learners, or those with additional support needs or disabilities) should not wear them as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. In classes where any such impacts are anticipated and no alternative mitigations are reasonable, schools may wish to consider the use of see-through face coverings which are increasingly available. Some children and young people may need additional support/reassurance about the reasons for adults wearing face coverings.
89. It is vital that clear instructions are provided to staff and children and young people on how to put on, remove, store and dispose of face coverings in all of the circumstances above, to avoid inadvertently increasing the risks of transmission. The key points are as follows:
- Face coverings should not be shared with others.
- Before putting on or removing the face covering, hands should be cleaned by washing with soap and water or hand sanitiser.
- Make sure the face covering is the right size to cover the nose, mouth and chin. Children should be taught how to wear the face covering properly, including not touching the front and not pulling it under the chin or into their mouth.
- When temporarily storing a face covering (e.g. during classes), it should be placed in a washable, sealed bag or container. Avoid placing it on surfaces, due to the possibility of contamination.
- Re-usable face coverings should be washed after each day of use in school at 60 degrees centigrade or in boiling water.
- Disposable face coverings must be disposed of safely and hygienically. Children and young people should be encouraged not to litter and to place their face coverings in the general waste bin. They are not considered to be clinical waste in the same way that used PPE may be.
Further advice on face coverings is available.
There should be regular messaging from schools to adults and children and young people about these instructions. These risks must be considered when deciding locally whether to step up measures.
90. Local authorities and schools should consider carefully how to address any equity concerns arising from the use of face coverings, including in respect of the impacts on certain groups of pupils and the costs of providing face coverings for staff and children and young people. It is reasonable to assume that most staff and young people will now have access to re-usable face coverings due to their increasing use in wider society, and the Scottish Government has made available a video on how to make a simple face covering. However, where anybody is struggling to access a face covering, or where they are unable to use their face covering due to having forgotten it or it having become soiled/unsafe, schools should take steps to have a contingency supply available to meet such needs.
91. No-one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. See the section on Supporting the Wellbeing of Children and Young People for guidance addressing concerns regarding adherence to school policy or procedure.
92. Any additional costs of implementing this updated guidance (for example in respect of contingent provision of face coverings, or additional cleaning costs) will be considered via the arrangements for funding of Education Recovery that have been agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA.
Staying vigilant and responding to COVID-19 symptoms
93. The whole school community should be vigilant for the symptoms of COVID-19, and to understand what actions they should take if someone develops them, either onsite or offsite. The most common symptoms are:
- new continuous cough
- fever/high temperature
- loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).
94. All staff working in and with schools, along with the children and young people in their care, should be supported to follow up to date health protection advice on household or self- isolation if they or someone in their household exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have been identified by NHS contact tracers as a close contact of someone with the virus. Guidance on this is available from NHS Inform. It is essential that people do not attend school if symptomatic, but instead self-isolate (along with their household) and follow guidance on NHS Inform and from Test and Protect. Children, young people and staff should be supported to follow Test and Protect procedures (see "Surveillance and Test and Protect" later in this guidance).
95. Schools will be able to register their symptomatic staff as category 3 key workers under the employer referral portal, to ensure priority access to testing. The nature of this portal is to prioritise tests and appointments over the general public. This route directs individuals through to a Regional Test Centre or Mobile Testing Unit (whichever is nearer). For those who cannot access an RTC/MTU (if they do not have access to a car or live too far away), they can order a home test kit.
96. All children, young people and staff must know that they must inform a member of staff or responsible person if they feel unwell with symptoms of COVID-19. Schools may need to ensure a responsible adult is there to support an affected individual where required. If the affected person has mild symptoms, and is over the age of 16, they should go home as soon as they notice symptoms and follow the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection including testing and self-isolation. If the individual affected is a child or young person below the age of 16, parents/carers should be contacted and asked to make arrangements to pick the child or young person from school (preferably this should be another adult member of their household and not a grandparent) and follow the national guidance for households with possible COVID-19 infection including testing and self-isolation.
97. If a child or young person is awaiting collection try to find somewhere safe for them to sit which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible, and it is safe to do so, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door with appropriate adult supervision if required, depending on the age and needs of the child or young person. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation. The individual should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze, and then put the tissue in the bin. If no bin is available, put the tissue in a bag or pocket for disposing in a bin later. If you don't have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow. Where possible, a separate bathroom should be designated for the individual to use.
98. Those with minor symptoms (staff and young people over the age of 16 and children under the age of 16 accompanied by a parent/carer), should, after leaving the school, minimise contact with others where possible, e.g. use a private vehicle to go home. If it is not possible to use private transport, then they should be advised to return home quickly and directly, and if possible, wear a face covering in line with Scottish Government guidance. If using public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. If they don't have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow. See the Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings for further advice on travel.
99. If an individual is so unwell that they require an ambulance, phone 999 and let the call handler know you are concerned about COVID-19. If it is safe and appropriate to do so, whilst you wait for advice or an ambulance to arrive, try to find somewhere safe for the unwell person to sit which is at least 2 metres away from other people.
100. Advice on cleaning of premises after a person who potentially has COVID-19 has left the school premises can be found in the Health Protection Scotland Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings. Assist FM have also produced complementary guidance on cleaning in schools.
101. Individuals should wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell (see personal hygiene section). Also see section on PPE.
102. Schools should manage outbreaks (i.e. 2 or more confirmed cases within 14 days) in line with the guidance on outbreak response (below).
103. Schools should also maintain an accurate register of absences of children, young people and staff and whether these are due to possible or confirmed COVID-19. Codes for this have been developed in SEEMiS.
Enhanced surveillance, testing and outbreak management
104. The public health measures set out above will go a long way to ensuring a safe return to school for everyone.
105. There will also be, in parallel, a number of measures, involving testing and other steps, designed to monitor developments and allow for rapid response to any cases of COVID-19. This will include the following key elements.
(i) Enhanced surveillance programme
106. Scotland has an excellent programme of community surveillance. This allows us to monitor actively trends in the pandemic, both nationally and more locally.
107. There will also be specific surveillance in respect of schools and children/young people. This will draw on COVID-19 related information from a range of sources and will cover all school ages and the ELC phase.
108. We are also developing an additional surveillance programme within a sample of schools. This would involve working over a period of time with substantial numbers of children and workers at a representative sample of schools throughout Scotland, using repeated PCR/serology testing and survey data to establish symptoms and infections in the school population to inform the ongoing development of guidance. The principal focus of this at least initially would be children, young people and staff in S4, S5 and S6. Participation would be voluntary and careful consideration is being given to ensuring acceptability in school populations.
109. An additional surveillance study will look at risk in different occupational groups which will improve our understanding of the likelihood of COVID-19 infection and illness within the education workforce, and the effectiveness of measures to reduce transmission.
110. Taken together, these sources will allow regular reporting on indicators such as: overall incidence and swab positivity for Scotland; incidence and swab positivity for school-age children; number and proportion of all cases that are among school workers; hot spots by local authority area; number of clusters or outbreaks that are under investigation within educational settings; and, if feasible, antibody prevalence among children and school workers.
111. These data will inform decision-makers at different levels as they consider any adjustments to make to arrangements - including this guidance - or any investigations to be conducted at certain localities to explore what local responses are required.
(ii) Test and Protect
112. The effective application of Test and Protect in the school environment will be an important means of preventing any spread of the virus. Schools should ensure that they understand the Test and Protect process and how to contact their local Health Protection Team (HPT). Further information on Test and Protect is available. All educational establishments are considered complex settings and cases will be prioritised and escalated to specialist HPTs.
113. The key initial step is the self-isolation and rapid testing of all symptomatic children, young people and staff (see above). Other children, young people and staff members will not be required to self-isolate unless contacted by the contact tracing service. If a child, young person or staff member tests positive, the HPT will assess what action is needed, taking into account the close contacts the person has had within the school and other factors such as the implementation of mitigating measures, eg cleaning, ventilation and PPE.
114. If a child, young person (or their parent/carer if under 16 years) or staff member is contacted by a contact tracer and told to self-isolate for fourteen days, the person should leave school to self-isolate at home straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering en route and avoid public transport. The Scottish Government has published advice for employers on how to support people who are asked to self-isolate.
(iii) Outbreak management
115. The management of outbreaks of infectious disease in schools is led by local health protection teams (HPTs) alongside local partners, such as schools and local authorities. Schools should ensure before the return that they know how to contact their local HPT and who will usually be responsible for doing so.
116. The procedures for outbreak management are well established. If schools have two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days, or an increase in background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, they may have an outbreak. In this situation schools should make prompt contact with their local HPT and local authority. Note that settings with increased rates of respiratory illness should also be alert to the possibility that this could be due to COVID-19 and contact their local HPT for further advice.
117. If an outbreak is confirmed, schools should work with their local HPT to manage it. Actions that schools/local authorities may need to be involved in include (but are not restricted to):
- attendance at multi-agency incident management team meetings;
- communications with children, parents/carers and staff;
- providing records of school layout / attendance / groups; and
- implementing enhanced infection, prevention and control measures.
118. The HPT will make recommendations to the incident management team on self-isolation and on testing of children and staff and the arrangements for doing this. Any discussion of possible school closures should take place between schools, local authorities and local HPTs. Schools should maintain appropriate records to support outbreak control measures, e.g. children, young people and staff attendance, details of pupil groups, visitors to schools, and clinically vulnerable/extremely vulnerable children and young people who are attending school.
Special considerations for certain groups
Children, young people and staff who are clinically vulnerable
119. Clinically vulnerable staff can return to work, following a dynamic risk assessment, and arrangements should be made to enable appropriate physical distancing staying 2 metres away from others wherever possible, in line with current advice on the return to school. If they have to spend time within 2 metres of other people, settings must carefully assess and agree with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.
Children, young people and staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding)
120. The trajectory of the virus has been such that shielding will be paused from 1 August. We expect that children, young people and staff who are shielding will be able to return to school in August, unless given advice from a GP or healthcare provider not to, and can follow the same guidance as the rest of Scotland.
121. Where any concerns do exist, guidance for people with underlying health conditions has been prepared and will continue to be updated. School staff who have underlying health conditions will wish to be aware of this advice in order to inform discussions with their employer and/or their healthcare team. Similarly, parents/carers may wish to have a discussion with their child's healthcare team if they are unsure or have queries about returning to school because of their health condition.
122. In addition, local monitoring arrangements will be in place to give early warning of any local increase in infections in the future which could lead to people in the higher risk categories being advised to stay away from schools again for their safety. Schools will therefore wish to maintain plans for providing education remotely to some children and young people in such circumstances, in line with duties to provide education elsewhere than a school when a child is unable to attend school due to ill health.
Support for children and young people with Additional Support Needs
123. Every child and young person will have different levels of required support. It will be important as part of the risk assessments carried out to consider the individual needs of a child or young person. 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 as appropriate, and regularly wash their hands before and after contact.
Support for anxious children, young people, families and staff
124. The past few months have been a time of considerable change and there will undoubtedly be moments of anxiety. It will be important to take gradual steps in terms of reintroduction to safe practices and intervention with others. It will be important to phase some of this in through family interaction prior to the return to school, particularly for children and young people with additional support needs. It will also be vital for relevant services to consider mental health awareness.
Support for Minority Ethnic children, young people and staff
125. There is some wider evidence that children, young people and adults from a Minority Ethnic background who are infected with COVID-19 seem to be at higher risk of severe disease. The recent report by the National Records of Scotland on the breakdown of COVID-19 deaths in Scotland by ethnic group, concluded that over the course of the pandemic to date, COVID-19 was a relatively more common cause of death for people in the South Asian ethnic group compared to people in the white ethnic group. Work is ongoing to build upon these data and to improve understanding. The Scottish Government continues to work with experts from a range of fields, including our new Ethnicity Expert Reference Group, to develop actions to help mitigate any disproportionate effects.
126. Consequently, the concerns within Minority Ethnic communities must be recognised and individual requests for additional protections should be supported wherever possible. Responding to requests for additional protections may include offering access to support from occupational health services (OHS) and the provision of individual risk assessments. Care should be taken to ensure that Minority Ethnic children, young people, families and staff are involved in decisions about additional protections - automatic referrals to OHS should not be made. Local authorities should ensure that managers in school have sensitive, supportive conversations with all Minority Ethnic staff, which also consider their health, safety and psychological wellbeing and personal views and concerns about risk. Wellbeing support services should be promoted to all Minority Ethnic staff.
127. Employers should be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 at all times. All Minority Ethnic staff from South Asian backgrounds with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 55, or who are pregnant, should be individually risk assessed, and appropriate reasonable adjustments should be made following risk assessment.
Individual risk assessments
128. Local authorities will already have individual risk assessment processes in place to support individuals in the groups above. They may also wish to have reference to Scottish Government guidance on individual risk assessment for staff in the workplace.