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
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.

All parents should be asked to mention childcare arrangements if contacted by or contacting the Test and Protect service.

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.

If a child or staff member tests positive, the contact tracer will take into account the close contacts the person has had within the setting.

Childcare providers must keep clear records of children, adults and staff attending their settings, and of the composition of groups undertaking activities.  These records will help to ensure rapid response and contact tracing should a positive case occur. This will 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.

Outbreak and case management

The management of single cases, clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 is led by local health protection teams (HPTs) in health boards across all settings in society. For educational settings this occurs inclusively alongside local partners, such as childcare settings , schools and local authorities as well as Public Health Scotland, as required.

The procedures for incident and outbreak investigation and management are well established through Managing Public Health Incidents.

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

A cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 occurs when a setting has two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days. If a plausible transmission link between two or more cases is identified within the setting, this is indicative of an ‘outbreak’; if not, it is referred to as a ‘cluster’.

For educational settings, Public Health Scotland advise that the local HPT is contacted when a single confirmed (test positive) case of COVID-19 occurs in a pupil or staff member or if there is suspicion of an outbreak of cases in a specific setting, e.g. an increase in the background rate of absence due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. In this way, the HPT can provide quick advice to settings to support risk assessment of the situation and any further action required.

Childcare settings will be expected to work closely with their local HPT to resolve such situations. Actions that school age childcare and other management teams may need to be involved in when cases of COVID-19 arise in staff or children include (but are not restricted to):

  • attendance at multi-agency incident management team meetings
  • communications with children, parents/carers and staff – these are vital to provide reassurance to school communities
  • providing records of setting layout / attendance / groups
  • implementing enhanced infection, prevention and control measures
  • media communications.

Childcare facilities remain settings of low risk for COVID-19. The HPT will lead the incident management team (IMT) that usually co-ordinates such activities and through its members will investigate the circumstances of each incident and agree control measures. The investigation will involve reviewing risk assessments and compliance with existing guidance. Control measures may include hand hygiene reviews, enhanced cleaning regimes, adequate ventilation, reinforcement of messages on physical distancing, reminders about symptom vigilance and self-isolation and advice on face coverings and testing of children and staff, when needed. Usually childcare settings continue to operate throughout. In larger-scale clusters, it may be necessary to temporarily close a setting to facilitate cleaning or when staff capacity makes it unfeasible to remain open. Rarely do settings need to close on Public Health grounds. Any discussion of possible closures will be determined through the multi-agency IMT.

Setting should maintain appropriate records to support outbreak control measures and information flow between participating agencies must be facilitated respecting the principles of confidentiality and Data Protection legislation. In order to protect children and staff and to maintain access to education, confirmation of child and staff COVID-19 case and close contact numbers (including those self-isolating) are shared in confidence between the agencies.

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.

The Scottish Government has produced an infographic that can be used to remind staff of what to do if there is a suspected outbreak.


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: 20 Jul 2021 -