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
- creating groups of children who will stay together throughout the school day
- keeping rooms well-ventilated (while making sure the school or nursery is kept at an appropriate temperature )
- avoiding large movements of pupils
- using face coverings as required
- making sure transport to school is safe.
As different areas of Scotland come out of lockdown, the Scottish Government have set out 5 coronavirus protection levels that can be used nationally or locally, depending on the prevalence of the virus. The higher the protection level in your local area, the more measures your child’s school or nursery will be taking to keep your child and others 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 keep two metres away from their peers or staff.
Primary school pupils do not have to keep two meters away from other pupils, but there should be two meters distancing between staff and pupils whenever possible.
High school pupils are generally not expected to keep two meters away from their peers, but there should be strict 2 meter distancing between staff and high school pupils.
In areas with a higher coronavirus protection level schools may ask all pupils to keep distance from their peers where possible. If your child is an older pupil in the later stages of secondary school, they will likely be encouraged to keep distance from their peers, even in areas with a lower coronavirus protection level.
Dedicated school transport should be treated like being in school, which means pupils do not need to physically distance from their peers. However, where public transport (including taxis) is used to get to or from school, physical distancing should be followed where possible.
Pre-school children and 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. Nursery and primary school staff need to wear a face covering.
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 about 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.
Dedicated school transport should be treated like being in school, which means primary aged pupils do not need to wear a face covering on dedicated school transport. However, where public transport (including taxis) is used to get to or from school, the normal coronavirus rules apply. Currently this means children aged 5 and over should wear a face covering on public transport to and from school, unless they are exempt (for example, due to a health condition).
Reach, our website for children and young people, also has advice on wearing face masks.
Testing for coronavirus is voluntary and your child should not be required to undergo testing without consent, and they should not be excluded from nursery or school if they do not wish to test.
However, your local authority should make sure that all high school pupils who are attending school have access to at-home testing twice a week.
School staff including teachers, support for learning assistants and school transport staff will also have access to twice weekly at-home test kits.
If your child's health condition means they are at the highest clinical risk from coronavirus, and they need to follow shielding guidance, they may not be able to attend school or nursery yet.
The current advice is for pre-school children on the shielding list to not attend nursery in areas with a coronavirus protection level 4 or during lockdown.
Primary and high school pupils who are on the shielding list should not attend school in areas with a coronavirus protection level 3 - 4, or during lockdown.
However, you can speak with your child’s medical professionals to discuss the situation. It may be possible for them to work with the school or nursery to do an individualised risk assessment for your child. This would help everyone decide if there are any adjustments or further safety measures they could put in place to sufficiently reduce the risk to your child, and let them return to school or nursery again in person. If your child already has an individual risk assessment, you can ask for it to be reviewed to make sure it is up to date.
If your child has been advised that they cannot attend school at the moment, it is important to remember they still have a right to an education and to get support with their learning at home. For more information about your child’s rights, see our coronavirus page “Support for children who are learning remotely” and our factsheet, ‘When your child is too unwell to attend school’.
All children (including those more vulnerable to coronavirus) should attend school or nursery if they are in an area with a protection level 0, 1 or 2. It is important that their school or nursery still takes their health condition 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’.
Even if your child lives with someone who is at increased risk from coronavirus, they should attend school unless a doctor or health professional has advised them not to.
You can let the school or nursery know about your family’s situation, so they can be aware and consider what steps they can take to reduce the risk for your child and family.
If your child is living with someone who is at increased risk from coronavirus, this may also have an impact on their wellbeing or learning. For example, they may be a young carer helping to support a family member living with an illness at home. Our website for children and young people, reach.scot, has lots of great advice for young carers.
Plans are in place to respond quickly and safely if your child, or another child or staff member, develops coronavirus symptoms while at school or nursery. They would be kept in a safe space where they were physically distant from others while the school contacted you and made 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'.
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 they have a right to an education. Your child should be in school unless they are too unwell to attend, or they have been advised to stay at home by national public health guidance or by their GP or healthcare provider. You have a duty as their parent to make sure they get an education from ages 5 to 16. It is really important that you work with the school to find a solution that means your child can attend if they should be in school.
The Scottish Government have set out 5 coronavirus protection levels (0 – 4) that can be used nationally or locally, depending on the prevalence of the virus across Scotland. The higher the protection level in your local area, the more measures your child’s school or nursery will be taking to keep your child and others safe.
All local authorities have planned for how they can continue to educate and support pupils if there is a local increase in coronavirus. Their plans will try and limit any impact on your child’s education and wellbeing as much as possible.
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 local authority would also go back to providing critical childcare services for children who need it, for example children of keyworkers, and children who need extra care and protection.
Most of the current Scottish Government guidance on schools only applies to local authority educational settings. However, the Scottish Government guidance states that independent schools may find it helpful to use the same guidance. This means it is largely up to individual independent schools to consider their own arrangements for continuing education for their pupils, including international pupils and pupils who ‘board’ or live at school for part of the school year.
The Scottish Government coronavirus guidance on reopening schools includes supplementary guidance for schools where pupils reside or ‘board’ at the school. This is intended to apply to independent boarding schools as well as local authority schools.
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.