Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school aged childcare services

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

54 page PDF

775.2 kB

54 page PDF

775.2 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school aged childcare services

54 page PDF

775.2 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  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.


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues reviewed the evidence on transmission and infection in Scotland, as well the impact of the new variants of the Coronavirus, at its meetings on 26th January, and on 1st February. At both meetings the group reviewed evidence on: the state of the epidemic in Scotland; transmission among young children; and the wider impacts of the current restrictions on children and families. The sub-group advice (published here) is that, subject to a continued decrease in levels of community transmission and in the prevalence of the virus, ELC settings could reopen in full from 22nd February. 

School age childcare services will continue to be subject to the same opening restrictions that came into effect on 26 December 2020. This means that services may only open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers. The Sub-Group noted the important role of school age childcare in supporting the most vulnerable children, and strongly supported continued access to these services, including breakfast clubs that support children facing food insecurity. However the sub-group advised on a cautious approach to the gradual re-opening of services. To minimise any potential spread of the virus, this is focusing, in the first instance, on settings that present the lowest risk. The decision to prioritise the return to ELC reflects the evidence that younger children are at lower risk from COVID, the role that ELC plays in supporting children’s development, and the challenge of delivering this crucial support remotely The next meeting of the Advisory Sub-Group will assess the impact of the first phase of the return to schools and review the reopening of school age childcare.  

This guidance provides principles to help you make decisions that are based upon 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 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 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 is version 7 of this guidance document, published on 19 February 2021. Updates in version 7 reflect the change in context for this guidance following the emergence of Variant of Concern 202012/01 and the Advisory Sub-Group’s advice mentioned above.

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.

The key updates to the guidance in this publication are as follows but there have been some minor changes elsewhere and some changes to ordering. Providers are encouraged to read the guidance in full:

  • changes to the introduction to reflect the advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues on re-opening ELC to all children and the decision to continue restrictions for school age childcare.
  • new section on the introduction of routine asymptomatic testing for school age childcare staff.
  • further guidance on risk assessments and a requirement that these be reviewed regularly and in the context of the re-opening of ELC to all children.
  • added emphasis that all COVID-19 guidance, including the advice on shielding applies even in the context of the vaccine.
  • an update on the advice on attending childcare that has been provided to children who are shielding.
  • further clarity on working from home.
  • where to find advice on detergents/ cleaning products.
  • reference to the UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees.
  • a requirement that inductions for new staff must include guidance on the setting’s infection prevention and control measures.
  • reminder that risk assessments should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to take account of changing circumstances, including seasonal changes in relation to ventilation and heating/warmth.
  • reminder that internal fire doors should never be held open to promote ventilation (unless assessed and provided with appropriate hold open and self-closing mechanisms which respond to the actuation of the fire alarm system).
  • further clarity on self-isolation requirements.
  • extensive revision to the section on outbreak and case management.
  • update to section on student placements to explain how challenges are being considered.
  • new section to encourage settings to maintain as much consistency as possible in the staff who work in close proximity when planning working patterns.
  • reminder that the requirement to physically distance applies during breaks and outside of the work environment, including traveling to and from the service as well as while staff are on duty.
  • advice that signage may be used to remind staff to wear a face covering when passing through areas where it is not possible to maintain a 2m distance to reduce transmission risk.
  • new section to make clear that visits to the setting should be avoided unless necessary.
  • further reinforcement of the guidance on the use of face coverings to reduce the risk of adult to adult transmission
  • further update to the section on face coverings to align with schools guidance that adults should wear face coverings if they cannot maintain a 2m distance from school age children.
  • reminder that parents/carers and older children and young people should be discouraged from gathering outside the setting.
  • clarity that staff must not work across two premises if there is an outbreak in one of these and that settings should pay very close attention to any evidence suggesting bridges of transmission between settings and consult immediately with local public health teams.
  • guidance that the use of blended placements be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • an emphasis on the need for clearly defined training sessions for staff on the risk mitigations set out in this guidance and being implemented in the setting.
  • update to the section on financial impact.

This guidance supersedes the guidance issued on 3 July 2020 and the updated guidance that came into effect from 10 August 2020. 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 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 reopening of services are:

  • enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices; 
  • limiting children’s contacts by managing cohort sizes; 
  • maximising the use of outdoor spaces and access to fresh air; 
  • strict adherence to self-isolation for those who have symptoms, and to other Test and Protect measures for all; and 
  • strict adherence to 2 metre physical distancing between adults, including parents at drop-off and pick-up times
  • supportive use of face coverings

The aims of this guidance are to:

Provide clear expectations with regard to practical approaches to a safe provision of school aged 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:

  1. COVID-19: 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. 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: 26 Jan 2021 Last updated: 26 Feb 2021 -