Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school aged childcare services

Non-statutory guidance to support a safe and supportive environment.

43 page PDF

742.6 kB

43 page PDF

742.6 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school aged childcare services

43 page PDF

742.6 kB


We know there are challenges in delivering services in the evolving COVID-19 situation in Scotland, including school age childcare. Our focus must be on supporting children when they are in childcare settings, to form a secure and emotionally resilient attachment base as they grow and develop.  Nurturing and attached relationships are essential to creating the conditions for all children to flourish.

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 guidance for reopening and delivering school age childcare services.

Although the coronavirus situation in Scotland continues to evolve, we now know that children are less likely to be contract or transmit the virus. Please see the advice from the advisory sub-group for education and children’s issues.

Therefore, subject to surveillance and mitigations being in place, we are able to continue to deliver school age childcare with some restrictions in place. However, we cannot yet return to normal childcare practice – we all need to ensure that we continue to manage services and mitigate risks. This guidance provides principles to help you make decisions that are based on the best available evidence to help you operate in this evolving context. It will not provide the specific answer to every circumstance which may arise, but it will provide the basis on which you can use your professional judgement to make a decision

If the circumstances of the virus in Scotland change, further changes to public health measures may be required and will be clearly notified to the sector. The Scottish Government will engage with sector representatives to ensure that any immediate changes are communicated to the sector as quickly as possible.

Please be aware however, that public health advice will change over time and you should regularly check online to make sure you are working to the most recent version of this guidance. 


This non-statutory guidance applies to all providers of Care Inspectorate registered school age childcare services in all sectors – local authority, private and third sectors. This includes breakfast clubs, after-school care and holiday care.

This guidance supersedes the guidance issued on 3 July 2020 and the updated guidance that came into effect from 10 August 2020. Where the guidance applies to only one of these services types, this is identified in the text. For childminders who offer school aged childcare they should also refer to COVID-19: Childminder Services Guidance. For services who provide both early learning and childcare and school age childcare they should also refer to the COVID-19: guidance on reopening early learning and childcare services. Updated guidance for these services was published and  came into effect on 10 August 2020. A further update has been provided in October 2020.

The guidance has been developed by the Scottish Government with key partners supporting the Education Recovery Group, including local authorities, trade unions, Care Inspectorate, Education Scotland and representatives of school age childcare providers and in collaboration with Health Protection Scotland (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 delivering services.  This guidance is based on evidence and advice provided by the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, first published in July 2020. The Sub-Group has since reviewed this advice in light of the changed position on infection and transmission rates, the evidence and experience of settings re-opening between August and October 2020, and recent scientific evidence. Following that review, the Sub-Group has concluded that its previous advice on physical distancing in settings should be maintained, and the need for compliance should be strongly reinforced. 

See: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - advice on face coverings, physical distancing and related matters

The core public health measures that underpin reopening of services are:

      • enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning practice
      • limiting children’s contacts
      • 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
      • active engagement with Test and Protect

The aims of this guidance are to:

  • Provide clarity of expectation with regard to practical approaches to a safe provision of school aged childcare settings; and
  • 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 children, families and staff, taking account of local circumstances and service type.

Where this guidance states that providers:

  • “must” do something, there is an expectation that it is done without exception;
  • “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 settings.

This guidance is not exhaustive, and providers will 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, not leaving fire doors 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:

  1. COVID19: Scotland's Strategic Framework.
  2. 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.
  3. is non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools. This may be relevant to those services using school premises. 
  4. Infection Prevention and Control in Childcare Settings (Daycare and Childminding Settings)
  5. NHS inform – Covid 19
  6. NHS Inform Covid:19 Shielding Guidelines
  7. Health and Social Care Standards
  8. Test and Protect Guidance
  9. Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020
  10. Playwork Principles
  11. Setting the table: nutritional guidance and food standards for early years providers in Scotland.
  12. Guidance on individual risk assessments
  13. Out to Play: practical guidance for creating outdoor play experiences in early learning and childcare.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 14 Dec 2020 -