The decision to close school and childcare settings has had a profound impact on the lives of children and families throughout Scotland. There was little time to prepare, or scope to explain, the changes to our youngest children. Their relationships and friendships were abruptly interrupted as well as their learning.
We know there will be challenges in returning to services after a turbulent break. In line with Realising the Ambition, our focus must be on supporting children when they are in settings, to form a secure and emotionally resilient attachment base which will stand them in good stead as they grow and develop. Nurturing and attached relationships are essential to creating the conditions for children to flourish in early learning and childcare.
All children have a right to play, to learn and to access experiences that meet their physical, social, emotional and cultural needs, and they have a right to associate with their peers. In line with Scotland's commitment to Getting It Right For Every Child, children also have the right to the best possible health, with their best interests a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect them. Adults, of course, also have fundamental rights in relation to their health and wellbeing.
These important rights and considerations have all been factored into the development of a framework for reopening ELC services. This guidance provides principles to help you make decisions based on the best available evidence to help you operate in a changed context. Please be aware however, that public health advice may evolve over time and you should check online to make sure you are working to the most recent version of this guidance.
This non-statutory guidance has been developed for early learning and childcare (ELC) providers in the local authority, private and third sectors to support a safe reopening of these settings during Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Route Map in line with the Strategic Framework for reopening schools and ELC provision, published on 21 May.
This guidance applies to all providers of registered day care of children’s services, including nurseries, playgroups, family centres and crèches who provide care to children under school age. Bespoke guidance has already been published for fully outdoor services and childminding services.
We are working with Health Protection Scotland (HPS) to develop guidance for school aged childcare and holiday provision that will sit alongside the guidance for schools, but which takes account of the unique nature of the out of school care sector. This will be published as early as possible.
This guidance has been developed by the Scottish Government with input from key partners from the Education Recovery Group, including local authorities, trade unions, Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland and representatives of ELC providers, and in collaboration with HPS. It has been informed by judgements based on the scientific and public health advice available at the time of writing.
This guidance is based on a set of principles for all services across Scotland that recognises that safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the child, and adults who work with them, must be central to any plans to reopen. The principles in this document support planning for reopening in a manner which is consistent with wider efforts to control transmission of the virus and protects the health of children, their families, and the staff group.
The Strategic Framework recognises that it is not appropriate for young children to maintain the models of physical distancing that are suitable for older children, either practically or in terms of child development. In particular, it is not desirable or possible to implement strict physical distancing between young children or between a young child and their key worker. Alternative, age appropriate public health measures will be put in place for ELC settings.
The core public health measures that underpin reopening of services are:
- enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning practice
- caring for children in small groups
- minimising contact between these groups
- maximizing the use of outdoor spaces
- physical distancing between adults and older children in the setting including parents at drop-off and pick-up times
The aims of this guidance are to:
- provide clarity of expectation with regard to practical approaches to a safe, phased reopening of ELC and
- to provide key principles for consideration. This guidance is not intended to promote a “checklist” approach. Providers should exercise their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff, children and families is paramount, taking account of local circumstances
Where this guidance states that providers:
- “must” do something, there is an expectation that it is done
- “should” do something, this is strongly advised
- “may” or “may wish” to do something, this is optional
Where this guidance refers to parents, this includes carers or family members who may be involved with children attending the setting.
This guidance is not exhaustive, and providers must continue to operate within the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure the health and wellbeing of children and parents while they are using their service. Measures put in place within the setting to comply with this guidance must not contravene health and safety legislation, for example, fire doors must not be left ajar to increase ventilation.
Nothing in this guidance affects the legal obligations of providers with regard to health and safety and public health advice. Providers must continue to adhere to all such duties when implementing this guidance. Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, they must have regard to any advice relating to coronavirus from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.
This guidance should be read alongside:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): strategic framework for Reopening Schools and ELC and the framework document Coronavirus (COVID19): a framework for decision making
- Health Protection Scotland non-healthcare settings guidance - this contains information on health protection and infection prevention and control issues including cleaning, hygiene measures, what to do if someone falls ill, laundry considerations and waste management
- School and early learning closures - guidance about key workers and vulnerable children - sets out the childcare and learning provision we expect for key workers and vulnerable children during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Realising the ambition: Being Me - early years national practice guidance for Scotland
- Setting the table: nutritional guidance and food standards for early years providers in Scotland
- Infection Prevention and Control in Childcare Settings (Daycare and Childminding Settings)
- NHS Inform - COVID:19 Shielding Guidelines
- health and social care standards
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for continuity in learning
- Test and Protect guidance
- Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020
Managers and staff in the setting must make themselves familiar with COVID-19 advice available from HPS before the service reopens. It is important that the most up-to-date guidance is used and that managers and staff are knowledgeable about current guidance. Always access guidance online wherever possible and check regularly for any updated advice.
Managers and staff must be aware of Test and Protect arrangements should they experience an outbreak. If a member of the staff team has symptoms, they must contact the NHS to arrange to be tested at 0800 028 2816 or www.nhsinform.scot. You can find more information on the COVID-19 Test and Protect webpage.
Managers must notify the Care Inspectorate in the event of any confirmed or suspected outbreak of an infectious disease, notifications and guidance are available through eForms.
Prior to recommencing their service, the manager must contact the Care Inspectorate to advise them of their updated operational status.
To do this they must complete a “Changes to Service Delivery due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)” notification. This is a new notification that services must use to inform the Care Inspectorate about operational changes that are specifically related to COVID-19. This is only available through eForms. If you do not update your status, the Care Inspectorate will consider your service closed.