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Coronavirus and additional support for learning

How will my child’s school or nursery keep them safe?

Local authorities, schools and nurseries have been working hard to make sure it is safe for your child to attend school or nursery while Scotland continues to respond to coronavirus. Everyone is aware of the risks and should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on reducing the risks in schools and early learning and childcare services. This will help make sure all steps are taken to keep pupils and staff safe from coronavirus, for example:

  • encouraging good hygiene and hand-washing
  • regular cleaning of rooms and equipment
  • keeping rooms well-ventilated (while making sure the school or nursery is kept at an appropriate temperature)
  • using face coverings as required
  • making sure transport to school is safe.

Your child’s school should explain to you all the steps they are taking to protect pupils’ health and safety, but if you have any particular concerns about your child, you can discuss them with your child’s teacher.

This section contains answers to some of the questions that you may have about keeping your child safe. If you have a question that we have not answered, please get in touch with our helpline.

You can also visit ParentClub’s website where you might find more answers to your questions.

Pre-school children are not expected to physically distance from their peers or staff.

Primary and high school pupils do not have to physically distance from other pupils, but high school pupils are encouraged to do so where possible. There should be one metre distancing between staff and pupils whenever possible. It’s recognised that this will not always be appropriate or possible when supporting younger pupils or pupils with additional support needs.

Previously, some pupils were learning in ‘contact groups’ or ‘bubbles’. Pupils are no longer required to learn in bubbles. However, schools should continue to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings.

School transport should now be treated like any other public transport, which means pupils do not need to physically distance from their peers but where possible it’s generally safer to keep some distance from others. Pupils should keep one metre physical distance between themselves and the driver where possible.

Pre-school children do not need to wear a face covering or mask when at nursery. Nursery staff do not need to wear a face covering when they are working directly with your child and other children. They do however need to wear a mask where they can’t keep physical distance from other adults.

Primary school pupils do not have to wear a face covering or mask at school unless their doctor or healthcare professional has advised them to. If your child wants to wear a face covering, they should be allowed to do so. Primary school staff need to wear a face covering when they are moving around the school or in communal areas (unless they are exempt).

All high school pupils and staff need to wear face coverings when in school (unless they are exempt due to their additional support needs or a health condition). This includes in classrooms, in communal areas and when moving around the school.

Schools should consider the impact of both staff and pupils wearing face coverings on pupils with additional support needs. For example, pupils with hearing loss or pupils who rely on visual cues who may find it difficult to follow teachers’ instructions if they are wearing a face covering. If your child finds it difficult to communicate with or understand others because they are wearing a face covering, or if wearing a face covering would cause them distress, you can discuss what changes the school might need to make to avoid putting your child at a disadvantage.

While your child should follow the Scottish Government guidance and school rules around wearing a face covering, some pupils with additional support needs may find it challenging to always do so. The school should take account of their individual needs, and if your child is not following the rules on wearing a mask the school should try to discuss and resolve this with them as quickly as possible. As always, exclusion from school should only be considered as a last resort.

School transport should now be treated like any other public transport. This means children aged 12 and over need to wear a face covering while on school or public transport (unless they are exempt).

Reach, our website for children and young people, also has advice on wearing face masks.

Your local authority should make sure that all school staff and high school pupils have access to at-home testing twice a week and encourage them to use this. This is to help identify any pupils who may have coronavirus and need to self-isolate, but who are showing no symptoms (a-symptomatic).

At both level 0 and beyond level 0 people at highest risk (previously people on the ‘shielding’ list) can now follow the same advice as the rest of the population. This means your child should attend school or nursery like normal.

It is important that their school or nursery still takes their health and home situation into account, and follows any medical guidance necessary to keep your child safe. They may have done an individual risk assessment for your child returning, which should be kept up to date.

Schools have a duty to support children with their healthcare needs. If your child has an existing healthcare plan, it may be helpful to ask the school to review and update their existing plan. If they do not currently have one, it may be helpful to ask the school to put a healthcare plan in place. There is more information about healthcare plans in our factsheet on ‘Supporting pupils with healthcare needs’.

Plans are in place to respond quickly and safely if your child develops coronavirus symptoms while at school or nursery. They would be kept in a safe space where they are physically distant from others while the school contact you and make arrangements for your child to be collected or make their way home.

The school will be able to help advise you on the current guidance and how to respond if your child develops symptoms. There is also information available from NHS Inform on things like checking symptoms and the latest guidance if your child or someone in your household develops symptoms.

If your child has developed symptoms and needs to self-isolate at home, the school should work with you to make sure they get support to continue with their learning from home if they are well enough to continue to learn while self-isolating.

For more information about this see our webpage ‘Support for children who are learning remotely'.

The rules on when pupils need to self-isolate changed in August 2021. They are explained in more detail in the Scottish Government self-isolation policy linked below.

Whole classes or groupings of pupils should no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days if someone in their class tests positive for coronavirus. Instead, the pupil who tested positive will need to self-isolate, but only close contacts of that pupil who are at the highest risk of having been exposed to coronavirus will be directly contacted by Test and Protect. Those pupils will be asked to self-isolate until they have taken a PCR test. If the test comes back negative and your child remains symptom free, they can return to school.

For example, your child may be contacted by Test and Protect if they have had unusually close or prolonged contact with the person who tested positive, but generally they should not be contacted by Test and Protect if they’ve only been in a wider classroom with a pupil who has tested positive.

In those situations, your child’s school or nursery should send you a “warn and inform” letter if they become aware your child may have been exposed to coronavirus. Your child will not be asked self-isolate or take a PCR test (unless they have been contacted directly by Test and Protect). The letter from the school or nursery is just to help you and your child pay close attention in case they develop any symptoms themselves, and so they know to be extra careful with things they should already be doing, like washing their hands regularly. The letter will also encourage your child to take a lateral flow test before returning to school.

It is completely normal and understandable to be worried about your child being in school or nursery during the coronavirus pandemic. It may be helpful to speak to the school or nursery about your concerns. You can ask them about the steps they have taken, or will take, to keep your child safe and discuss what more they might be able to do to address your concerns. You might find our factsheet on Working together with your child’s school helpful to prepare for that discussion.

Although you might worry about sending your child to school, you should bear in mind that you have a duty as their parent to make sure they are not absent from school without a ‘reasonable excuse’. It is really important that you work with the school, and local authority if needed, to find a solution that means your child can attend and access their right to an education. Our factsheet on School attendance explains more about the law on attending school.

Local authorities and schools have planned for how to respond if there is a significant increase in coronavirus again, either nationally or locally. Their plans will try and limit any impact on your child’s education and wellbeing as much as possible.

The Scottish Government previously set out 5 coronavirus protection levels (0 – 4) that can still be used if necessary. The higher the protection level in your local area, the more measures your child’s school or nursery will take to keep your child and others safe.

Everyone wants to avoid schools and nurseries needing to close again, but if there is a significant increase in coronavirus in your area it may become necessary if that is the best way to keep everyone safe.

If your child’s school or nursery needs to temporarily close again, your child will go back to learning at home like during the previous national lockdowns. They will still have a right to an education, and to get support with their learning if they need it. For more information see ‘Questions about remote learning during coronavirus.’

The current Scottish Government guidance on schools (linked below) advises that independent and grant-aided schools follow the same guidance as local authority educational settings. The guidance includes some specific notes for residential schools and those with pupils who are travelling from other countries to attend. Each independent school will need to consider the specific arrangements that will be best for them to keep their staff and pupils safe.

If your child attends an independent school and you are concerned about the measures the school are taking to keep them safe from coronavirus, you can contact the school to discuss your child’s individual needs and how they are taking these into account. There is more information about your child’s rights to support in our factsheet on Independent schools and additional support for learning.

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Resources/Advice for Young People/

Our service Reach has bitesize, easy read advice to help you talk to your child about their learning and support during coronavirus.

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