Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): re-opening schools guide

Non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools in their planning for a safe, phased opening in August 2020.


This guidance has been developed for education authorities and schools, (Primary/Secondary/ASN/School Hostels/Residential) to support a safe, phased reopening of schools in line with the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC.

It may also be used by grant aided schools and independent schools to support their recovery efforts. Read the supplementary guidance for residential boarding/hostel accommodation in educational facilities, developed in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

The aims of this guidance are to:

  • provide clarity of expectation with regard to practical approaches to a safe, phased reopening of schools and
  • in so doing, promote broad national consistency whilst ensuring appropriate local flexibility for education authorities, schools and staff to adapt and adopt approaches that best suit their communities’ needs and ensure the safety of staff, children, young people and their families.

Recognising the specific context of the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and childcare sector, separate guidance for these settings is being developed. While the broad principles will be similar across schools and early learning and childcare, particularly across the early level, it will be important to provide guidance that supports all providers to implement age appropriate measures to re-open ELC settings.

The guidance has been developed by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland with key partners supporting the Education Recovery Group, including Scottish Futures Trust, education authorities, trade unions and parent representatives. It has been informed by judgements based on the scientific and public health advice available at the time of writing.

This guidance should be read and applied in conjunction with the latest Health Protection Scotland guidance, the Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC and the framework document Coronavirus (COVID19)- a framework for decision making.

This guidance has been written to ensure consistency with existing guidance on physical distancing and hygiene that applies to the emergency childcare hubs in operation while schools remain closed. Work to consolidate these pieces of guidance will be undertaken as plans for the continuing operation of emergency childcare hubs and ELC provision are finalised.

Read the information for parents, carers, children and young people.

Where this guidance states that education authorities and schools:

“should” do something, there is a clear expectation, agreed by all key partners, that it should be done.

“may” or “may wish” to do something, the relevant sections have been included as examples of relevant practice that can be considered if appropriate. Local variations are likely.

Nothing in this guidance affects the legal obligations of education authorities with regard to health and safety and public health. Education authorities must continue to adhere to all such duties when implementing this guidance. Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, they must have regard to the advice relating to coronavirus from of the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. In the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation must prevail.

This guidance is not intended to promote a “checklist” approach. Education authorities and schools should exercise their expert judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and children, taking into account local circumstances.

Summary of key scientific and public health advice

To promote transparency with regard to the scientific, public health and wider policy judgements that have informed the development of the Education Recovery Framework and the approach set out in this guidance, a summary of key scientific and public health advice has been published.

The summary aims to be transparent about those aspects which are not well understood, and make clear that in some cases the science does not provide us with a definitive view on the situation or the best course of action. The Scottish Government also considers a range of other advice when making decisions, including stakeholder views and engagement with the people of Scotland.

This guidance will be kept under review and updated as scientific and public health guidance evolves.