Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for school age childcare services

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for school age childcare services


Who this is for

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.


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 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 a framework delivering school age childcare services.

The vaccination of adults has changed the relative rates of transmission and evidence continues to confirm that younger children are at lower risk of clinical disease from COVID-19 than are older children and adults. There is no evidence of any difference in the risk of severe COVID-19 among pre-school, primary and secondary school teachers, relative to other adults of a similar age. While we continue to make progress in suppressing the virus, childcare settings must place very high priority on reinforcing the mitigations set out in this guidance.

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 upon which you can use your professional judgement to make a decision

If the circumstances of the epidemic 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 evolve over time and you should regularly check online to make sure you are working to the most recent version of this guidance. 

This is version 14.2 of the guidance published on 23 September. Updates in this version:

  • note that at their meeting on 7th September, the Advisory Sub-group on Education and Children’s Issues recommended retaining the mitigations set out in this guidance until at least the October half term break
  • add a new section on identifying contacts, that includes a definition of higher risk contacts
  • include new ‘Warn and Inform’ letters that should be issued to parent/carers and staff when a setting is informed of a positive case
  • provide a link to a flowchart that summarises what action to take when a child or member of staff tests positive
  • include at Annexe A, a list local authority contacts that settings can use to help access CO2 monitors

This is version 14.1 of the guidance published on 30 August. Updates in this version:

  • link to new Self isolation and contact tracing information sheet for schools and registered childcare settings
  • provide a link to a guide that staff can use to determine for how long they should self-isolate: When and how long to self-isolate due to coronavirus | NHS inform
  • reflect the latest guidance on working from home
  • guidance in the section on visits by parents about what to do if a parent has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case but can end self-isolation on receipt of a negative PCR result
  • advice that peripatetic and agency staff should minimise, but are not are prohibited from, working across two premises if there is an outbreak in one of them
  • clarification that if there is an outbreak in a one of the settings where a child has a blended placement, it should, where possible, be postponed until after the outbreak
  • provide the latest information in the section on financial impact, particularly the publication of the Financial Sustainability Health Check

We have also removed the link to the training animation which is now out of date. We are considering whether to replace this with an online training module for settings and their staff.

Version 14 was published on 13 August 2021. Updates in that version:

  • clarify what do to when someone identified as a close contact has had a positive PCR test in the last 90 days (see section Routine asymptomatic testing of childcare staff)
  • add a link to an information sheet that settings should send to parents/carers and staff when there is a case in the setting (see section Test and Protect)
  • revise the section on  how to deal with outbreaks and case management (see Outbreaks and case management)
  • clarify that in level 0 and below groups can be mixed when outside, if this allows settings to maximise time spent outdoors (see section Limiting children’s contacts)
  • provide a new link to further information on how to remain safe when walking, cycling and travelling in vehicles or on public transport during the coronavirus outbreak

This guidance aims to support the school age childcare sector. Due to the age of children attending school age childcare settings, the guidance incorporates elements of ELC guidance in addition to relevant aspects of schools guidance.

This guidance supersedes all previous guidance. For childminders who offer school age 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 Coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare (ELC) services. Where the guidance applies to only one of these services types, this is identified in the text. Users should ensure that they refer to the guidance that is appropriate both for their setting and for the age range of children in their care.

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 Public Health Scotland (PHS). 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 wider health and wellbeing of the child, and adults who work with them, must be central to delivering services. This guidance is based on ongoing evidence and advice provided by the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues.

The core public health measures that underpin current operation of services are:

  • enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices
  • access to fresh air by maximising the use of outdoor spaces and effective ventilation
  • strict adherence to self-isolation for those who have symptoms, and to other Test and Protect measures for all
  • strict adherence to physical distancing between adults, including parents at drop-off and pick-up times, and
  • supportive use of face coverings
  • effective ventilation

The aims of this guidance are to:

Provide clear expectations with regard to practical approaches to a safe provision of school age childcare settings.

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 staff and 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:

First published: 5 Mar 2021 Last updated: 23 Sep 2021 -