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.

Hygiene, health and safety

As well as adapting the physical space and decreasing interactions in the education setting, education authorities and schools should consider key practices in respect of hygiene and facilities management.

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 education authority/school should undertake a health and safety check of the building concerned and deep cleaning prior to reopening where necessary.


All cleaning should be carried out in accordance with COVID-19 – guidance for non-healthcare settings.

Consideration should be given to the cleaning strategy to be adopted in the school. This may be an extension of the cleaning regime that has been used in childcare hubs, with desk surfaces, chairs, doors, light switches, banisters, sinks and toilets being cleaned more regularly. There should be routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces (e.g. telephones, keyboards, door handles, desks and tables).

Each setting should be cleaned every night or when pupil “sessions” change, in preparation for a new group of pupils being present the next day/session. This may require a review of cleaning contracts to ensure additional cleaning hours are available.

If pupils are moving between classes, consideration may be given to appropriate disinfectant wipes being provided to enable them to wipe down their desk/chair/surfaces before leaving the room.

Where possible, work-stations should be allocated consistently to the same staff and children rather than having spaces that are shared. Make sure that each workstation is wiped down and disinfected before the next person uses it.

Careful consideration should be given to removing from schools any soft furnishings/toys that are hard to clean.

Careful consideration should be given to the cleaning regime for sensory rooms and soft play areas, to ensure safe use.

Surfaces in dining halls should be wiped down and disinfected in between each sitting.

Cleaning of the staff areas should be considered as part of the overall cleaning strategy. Staff should use their own cup/cutlery and ensure these are cleaned straight after use.

Any crockery and cutlery in shared kitchen areas should be cleaned with warm general purpose detergent and dried thoroughly before being stored for re-use.

Additional cleaning of toilets should be considered as part of the cleaning strategy. Clear signage regarding the washing of hands after using the toilet should be displayed and appropriate hand drying equipment (hand dryer/paper towels) should be provided.

Clean work vehicles, between different passengers or shifts as appropriate.

Personal hygiene

Schools should encourage all staff, pupils, volunteers, contractors, service users and visitors to maintain personal hygiene throughout the day.

This includes:

  • frequent washing/sanitising of hands for 20 seconds and drying thoroughly, particularly when entering/leaving the building and before/after eating
  • encouraging pupils/staff to avoid touching their faces including mouth, eyes and nose
  • using a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze and use bins, that are emptied regularly for tissue waste

Regular reminders and signage should be applied to build awareness and maintain personal hygiene standards throughout the day.

Adequate facilities should be available for hand hygiene, including handwashing facilities that are adequately stocked or alcohol based hand rub at key areas (e.g. entry and exit points).

Consideration should be given to the installation of outdoor hand basins or hand sanitisers at entry/exit points, to allow all building users to wash hands as they enter/leave the building at pick up/drop off time and at break/lunch times. Help should be given to those pupils who struggle to wash their hands independently.


Where applicable, ventilation systems should be checked or adjusted to ensure they do not automatically reduce/increase ventilation levels due to differing occupancy levels.

The opening of doors and windows should be encouraged to increase natural ventilation and also to reduce contact with door handles.

A ventilated space should be available for pupils/staff who become symptomatic to wait in until they can be collected or safely get home.

Adherence to Test and Protect

All schools should familiarise themselves with the Test and Protect (Test, Trace, Isolate and Support) strategy that local health boards and Public Health Scotland are implementing. Test and Protect, as the strategy will be known, has a vital role to play alongside other public health measures such as physical distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene to enable us together to maintain low levels of community transmission of COVID-19.

Parents, carers and school settings do not need to take children’s temperatures every morning.

Stay at home guidance

All staff working in education facilities, along with the children and young people in their care, should be supported to follow up to date health protection advice on 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 disease.

Staff and children who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must be encouraged to stay at home, self-isolate, and contact the NHS for advice on testing. Those who do test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to continue to self-isolate for 7 days and their close contacts, identified through contact tracing, will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. All NHS Boards will have an enhanced COVID-19 contact tracing service in place from 28 May.

All education facilities should plan as much as possible to minimise the operational impact of individual staff or groups of staff being required to self-isolate. In order to interrupt chains of transmission effectively, it will be important that close contacts remain in self-isolation for the full 14 days, even when they have no symptoms. The success of this public health intervention will depend on the continued willingness of the population to comply with these measures.

People who become symptomatic onsite

All members of the educational establishment including staff and pupils should be continually supported to understand the symptoms to look for and clear advice should be provided on how to respond if symptoms become apparent while on-site.

A ventilated space should be available for pupils/staff who become symptomatic to wait in until they can be collected or safely get home.

Liaison with local public health teams

Schools should contact their local health protection team for advice if they have two or more cases (staff or students) or an increased rate of background illness. Contact details for local public health teams can be found in Appendix 1 of the Health Protection Scotland COVID-19 Guidance for Non-healthcare settings.

Schools should also maintain an accurate register of absences of pupils and staff and whether these are due to possible or confirmed COVID-19.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate

All schools should follow existing advice on the use of personal protective equipment in educational facilities.

The use of PPE by staff within education and childcare facilities 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. Schools and education 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.

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. If risk assessments are not in place, then they should be undertaken swiftly in accordance with the Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing in education and childcare facilities and local risk assessment guidance.

To support those assessments, schools should also develop a clear procedure for what staff should do if a pupil starts to display symptoms of COVID-19 when at school including guidance on the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) adhering to HPS non-healthcare facilities guidance

HPS non-healthcare facilities guidance makes clear that staff should continue to use PPE in line with current health and safety policies and risk assessments. Staff should only wear PPE when it is appropriate to the task they are undertaking. The exception is where, following an individual or organisational risk assessment it is found that a higher level of contamination, such as respiratory secretions, may be present or the risk assessment identifies that there is an identified need for PPE then it should be readily available and provided in line with guidance.