Local authorities, schools and nurseries have been working hard to make sure it is safe for your child to attend while Scotland continues to respond to coronavirus. Everyone is aware of the risks and should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance to make sure that they have taken all the steps they can 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 during the winter)
- avoiding large movements of pupils
- using face coverings as required
- making sure transport to school is safe.
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.
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.
Pupils are generally not expected to keep two metres away from their friends and classmates. They should do other things, though, to keep themselves and others safe, such as washing their hands regularly and following other school rules.
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. High schools in areas with a higher coronavirus protection level may ask all pupils to keep distance from their peers where possible.
All children aged 5 and over need to wear face coverings on school transport (unless they are exempt, for example due to a health condition). This means the rules will be the same for school transport as they are for public transport.
Primary school pupils generally do not have to wear a face covering or mask while at school unless their doctor or healthcare professional has advised them to do so. If your child wants to wear a face covering in primary school, they should be allowed to do this.
High school pupils are being asked to wear a face covering or mask at school in certain situations (unless they are exempt due to their additional support needs or a health condition). Generally, high school pupils are not expected to wear a face covering while they are in their classroom, but they should wear one in busier and more confined communal areas – like when walking in the corridors between classrooms and when visiting the school toilets. High school pupils in areas with a coronavirus protection level 3 or 4 need to wear face coverings in their classrooms as well.
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 no pupil should be excluded for not wearing a face covering.
Reach, our website for children and young people, also has advice on wearing face masks.
If your child's health condition means they are at greater risk from coronavirus, for example they were previously shielding during the first lockdown, they may not be able to attend school if you are in an area with a higher coronavirus protection level.
All children, including those more vulnerable to coronavirus, should continue to 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 to school, which should be kept up to date.
Schools also 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’.
If your child is at greater risk from coronavirus and you are in an area with a coronavirus protection level 3 - you should seek advice from their GP or healthcare provider. Some children at greater risk from coronavirus may be advised to stay at home in these areas. Others however may still be able to attend school or nursery with the right adjustments and safety measures in place. If your child’s GP or healthcare provider have advised that your child can continue to attend, you can ask their school or nursery to do an individual risk assessment for your child. They should look at what measures they can take to reduce the risks to your child. 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 is at greater risk and you are in an area with a coronavirus protection level 4 (the highest level) – they should not attend school.
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 “My child is not able to attend school” and our factsheet, ‘When your child is too unwell to attend school’.
Even if your child lives with someone who is at increased risk from coronavirus, they should attend school or nursery 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 'My child is not able to attend 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 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 and you have duty as their parent to make sure they get an education from age 5 to 16. So 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. They 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.
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 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.
Independent boarding schools may also find it helpful to consider the Scottish Government coronavirus guidance on Residential childcare, however again this guidance currently only needs to be followed for residential childcare that is arranged by a local authority.
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.