Publication - Advice and guidance

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

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): school age childcare services guidance
Test and protect

Test and protect

Staff and parents who are smartphone users should be encouraged to download The Protect Scotland contact tracing app to help suppress the spread of COVID-19.

Managers and staff must be aware of Test and Protect arrangements should someone become unwell. If a member of the staff team has symptoms, they must self-isolate and not attend, and must contact the NHS to arrange to be tested at 0800 028 2816 or You can find more information on the COVID-19 Test and Protect webpage..

All school age childcare settings are considered complex settings and cases will be prioritised and escalated to specialist local health protection teams.

Identifying contacts

Staff, including peripatetic and temporary staff, should be advised to tell their line manager as soon as they receive a positive test result. Settings should ask parents whether their child has tested positive for COVID-19 when parents are reporting absences, and parents should be prompted to mention any positive tests when leaving messages about absences (including via automated systems). Parents will also be prompted to report the result to the setting by the online contact tracing form that all people testing positive are sent as soon as their test results are received. If called by a contact tracer, the person testing positive will again be prompted to inform their childcare setting. In some circumstances, if a contact tracer requires to contact the setting directly, they will also inform the setting of the positive case. In this way, there are multiple routes and prompts to help ensure settings are alerted to positive cases as soon as possible after a member of staff or child tests positive.

If a parent/carer or staff member is contacted by a contact tracer and told to self-isolate for 10 days, the person should leave the setting to self-isolate at home straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport if symptomatic. The Scottish Government has published advice for employers on how to support people who are asked to self-isolate, available here.

The approach to contact tracing was adjusted from 9 August 2021 to better reflect the evidence and data on risks of infection and transmission amongst close contacts in this age cohort. Test and Protect will assume responsibility for contact tracing, and focus on identification of particularly close, prolonged contacts, primarily in household or social settings. When positive results are reported to childcare settings by staff and parents/pupils, it can help support the process if they take the opportunity to encourage those staff and parents to engage with the Test and Protect process and complete the online form as soon as possible.

Normal contacts in the SAC environment will not generally be considered as close contacts, unless index cases identify exceptional circumstances, such as having worked or socialised very closely with someone (including having shared a car). Setting staff will therefore not usually require to be involved in contact tracing. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, there will not be a requirement to isolate whole groupings of children as has previously been the case.

SAC providers must continue to keep clear records of children, adults and staff attending their settings, and of the composition of groups undertaking activities. These records will help to settings to target ‘Warn and Inform’ letters to parents and staff in the event of a positive case in the settings (see below) and to ensure rapid response and contact tracing should the index cases identify exceptional circumstances. This will also enable employers to maintain records on staffing capacity in individual settings and to make judgements about whether it will be necessary to close settings temporarily due to high levels of staff absence. All providers should plan as much as possible to minimise the operational impact of individual staff or groups of staff being required to self-isolate.

If, following confirmation of a child testing positive, the setting feels that a staff member is, or may be, a high risk contact because they have had unusually close or prolonged contact with that positive case in line with the examples set out below, AND the relevant staff member has not to date received notification via the Test and Protect system, the setting can contact their local Health Protection Team. They will provide advice on whether the individual is in fact a high risk contact and what action should be taken. NB: Before doing so, settings should ensure they have noted the examples of what would constitute unusually close or prolonged contact set out here:

Unusually close or prolonged contact does not include ‘business as usual’ contacts in the setting where the relevant mitigations are being followed (e.g. working in the same room as a positive case). Examples of unusually close or prolonged contact may include repeat toileting using hoist equipment for a child with ASN when PPE has not been used, or overnight stays.

Warn and Inform’ letters

In the event that settings are informed of a positive case or cases amongst their staff or children, they should contact parents/carers and staff and direct them to the relevant Warn and Inform letter which provides further information, and:

  • advises them to be particularly vigilant for symptoms and to self-isolate and book a test if they become symptomatic;
  • asks them and their children to follow particularly closely the mitigations in guidance; and
  • strongly encourages staff to continue testing and recording results regularly as part of the asymptomatic testing offer, as well as advising households to take advantage of the universal testing offer.

The letter to parents/carer should be sent to parents/carers of children who had contact with the positive case, for example, as part of the same cohort or room.

The letter to staff should be sent to staff members who had similar contact with the positive case.

Examples of these Warn and Inform letters are available in the supporting documents chapter of the 'Early learning and childcare' guide.

Settings do not need to issue multiple letters to the same parents/staff if there are multiple cases in the same class during an outbreak. In these circumstances, however, they may wish to keep parents, pupils and staff informed regularly of key developments (e.g. of any advice received from local Health Protection Teams, or updates on further positive cases or case numbers).

A flowchart that summarises what happens when a member of staff or a child tests positive is available in the supporting documents chapter of the 'Early learning and childcare' guide.

Outbreak and case management

Outbreak management in all settings is led by NHS Health Board health protection teams (HPTs).

The procedures for incident management are well established (Managing Public Health Incidents) and are undertaken in partnership with settings, local authorities and Public Health Scotland (as required).

Settings should ensure that they know how to contact their local HPT and their designated person for doing so is often the Head Teacher or setting manager.

Settings should ensure they are aware of the following definitions:

Single cases will be identified by Test and Protect and higher risk close contacts will be identified through them too. Settings are no longer to contact HPTs to notify of every single confirmed case in a setting. However, managers must notify the Care Inspectorate in the event of a first suspected case and all confirmed cases of COVID. Notifications and guidance are available through eForms.

Settings should contact their local HPT if a cluster is identified. A cluster is two or more unlinked (or link unknown yet) test-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among individuals associated with a specific setting with illness onset dates within 14 days.

The HPT can provide advice to assess any links between cases, undertake risk assessment and discuss further action. Following this an outbreak may be declared, usually through an Incident Management Team (IMT). An outbreak is two or more linked test-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among individuals, associated with a specific setting within 14 days.

Where necessary an IMT will be established to manage the outbreak. An IMT is a multidisciplinary, multi-agency group with responsibility for investigating and managing the outbreak. The HPT will chair the IMT and representatives from the setting and, if relevant, the council will be invited to join.

Settings may be asked to support an outbreak investigation by:

  • attending an Incident Management Team (IMT) meeting;
  • communicating with children, parents/carers, staff and the media;
  • implementing appropriate enhanced infection, prevention and control measures and support for contact tracing as recommended by the HPT or IMT

Childcare settings remain settings of low risk for COVID-19. Usually settings continue to operate during outbreaks. On occasion it may be necessary to temporarily close a setting or part of a setting in order to implement control measures or for operational reasons. Any decision on this should be determined through the IMT.

Settings should maintain records to support outbreak identification and investigation, including attendance records and reasons for absence. When information sharing is needed during management of an incident there is a duty to both protect and share personal information between those participating in the IMT such as test results and contact details. These requirements are set out in Annex E of Management of Public Health Incidents. The sharing of information must be facilitated respecting the principles of confidentiality and relevant legislation. To support this, Data Protection Impact Assessments should be in place for all partner organisations.

It is for local Health Protection Teams to consider individual risks for any staff or children.

There may also be circumstances in which, based on clear evidence and public health considerations, or other relevant factors (e.g. minimum staffing requirements) specific settings require either to close for a defined period of time. This will closely involve local authorities and local Public Health Teams. All such decisions will continue to be made by local incident management teams working in partnership, and on the independent advice of local Directors of Public Health, who will take full account of safety and wider public health considerations in line with their statutory duties. Similar decisions may require to be taken by local authorities and/or setting managers where staffing constraints (e.g. due to self-isolation or shielding) or other matters make such a move unavoidable.


Scotland has an excellent programme of community surveillance. This allows us to monitor actively trends in the pandemic, both nationally and more locally.

There will also be specific surveillance in respect of educational staff and children/young people. This will draw on Covid related information from a range of sources and will cover all school ages..

We are also launching an additional surveillance programme which will see antibody testing for substantial numbers of educational staff volunteers to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies over time.

Taken together, these sources will allow regular reporting on indicators such as: overall incidence and swab positivity for Scotland; incidence and swab positivity for school-age children; number and proportion of all cases that are among school workers; hot spots by local authority area; number of clusters or outbreaks that are under investigation within educational settings; levels and changes in antibodies in educational staff; risks in teachers; and, if feasible, asymptomatic transmission among older children and school workers.

These data will inform decision-makers at different levels as they consider any adjustments to make to arrangements – including this guidance – or any investigations to be conducted at certain localities to explore what local responses are required.

Student placements

In the 2020 to 2021 academic year, there has been an expectation at national level that HNC Childhood Practice students will continue their placements. To support colleges and childcare settings to offer placements to HNC students in academic year 2020-21, SSSC have published an Employer Toolkit to provide further information to support placement providers, students and centres to support the safe return of students to placements. The toolkit provides guidance and links to more information to support the safe completion of the placement element where possible. It also contains links to risk assessment tools, current national guidance, frequently asked questions and an example contract. Read the toolkit here.

In addition, we have now established a Learner Journey Ministerial Task Force, comprising representatives from colleges, universities, students and unions, to consider the challenges that colleges and universities face this academic year in delivering practical learning across all subjects with a placement element, including the HNC Childhood Practice. The immediate priority for the task force is to help students complete their courses and move into further study or employment. The task force will also consider arrangements if some students need to defer a part of their course. For HNC Childhood Practice courses, we continue to encourage colleges and employers to work together to identify placements for students which will enable them to complete their course by the end of the academic year.

First published: 5 Mar 2021 Last updated: 11 Oct 2021 -