On 22 February 2022 the Scottish Government published an update to Scotland's Strategic Framework, setting out a new staged approach to easing protective measures to help Scotland manage and recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It updated the strategic intent from a focus on suppressing cases to managing COVID-19 effectively, primarily through adaptations and health measures that will strengthen our resilience and recovery. The intent set out the Strategic Framework is to rely, as far as possible, much less on legal requirements and more on people and organisations making and sustaining the adaptations to behaviours and physical environments that will improve our resilience to the virus and help keep it in check.
One of the Scottish Government's top priorities has been, and will remain, to keep schools, early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and daycare of children's services open and safe. This is in line with advice from the World Health Organisation and elsewhere, and has helped to ensure continuity of the care, education and support they provide to children, families and communities.
The suite of COVID-19 safety guidance for schools, ELC settings, school-age childcare and childminding services has been kept under close review based on expert advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues, through consultation with the COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) and in partnership other stakeholder groups.
The measures set out within our various guidance for schools, ELC settings, school-age childcare and childminding services support the best possible outcomes for children with appropriate and proportionate protective measures, which are now more closely aligned with those across society. This reflects the current level of risk posed by the virus.
In addition to partners on CERG and ELC Covid Reference Group, continuous engagement with public health experts, staff, parents and representative bodies has been undertaken to develop all measures and to minimise the operational and educational impacts, while keeping children and staff safe.
For ELC and daycare of children's services, the suite of COVID-19 guidance has been amalgamated and updated into the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Early leaning and childcare services guide, which was published on 17 March 2022 to take effect from 18th April 2022.
Revised Routine Protective Measures guidance for schools was published on 17 March 2022 to take effect from the start of the summer term in April 2022. This guidance applies to all local authorities and primary/secondary/special/school hostels/residential schools under their management, and all external organisations involved in delivering services in schools (e.g. contracted facilities management services) in the delivery of education in Scotland. It should also be used by grant‑aided schools and independent schools.
Schools are considered to be low risk settings for outbreaks due to the relatively lower vulnerability of children to harm arising from COVID infection, and the high vaccination coverage of the working age adult population. Therefore, the routine protective measures that remain in place in schools and ELC settings are:
- children, young people and staff should stay at home and self-isolate if they:
- have symptoms of COVID-19, whether they feel unwell or not
- have tested positive, even if asymptomatic
- are required to self-isolate for any other reason e.g. travel-related reasons
- are identified as a close contact and are over 18 years and 4 months and are not fully vaccinated
- good hand and respiratory hygiene and surface cleaning in ELC and school environments and on dedicated school transport
- an ongoing focus on the importance of good ventilation and the potential for CO2 monitors to be utilised to monitor air quality in enclosed spaces, with the goal that all school buildings, including all learning and teaching spaces, and ELC settings should be assessed regularly for ventilation issues, taking remedial action where required.
- staff should continue to take reasonable steps to keep a safe physical distance from other adults (and between adults and school-aged children and young people wherever possible) in line with other workplaces.
- The use of face coverings is a recommended mitigation in certain parts of the school or ELC e.g. for adults and secondary age learners when in communal areas or moving around the building and in ELC settings where 1m distancing cannot be maintained.
- arrangements for dedicated school transport should follow the general guidance for public transport on the use of face coverings, cleaning, hygiene and ventilation
- ongoing need for outbreak management capability, including active surveillance
- assessments on the use of PPE should continue to be undertaken for those who work in close contact with children and young people
- asymptomatic testing for children and young people in secondary schools and for school and ELC staff should be in line with the wider Test and Protect Transition Plan. At the time of writing it is expected that routine asymptomatic testing will end from 18th April.
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