Skip to main content

Visit our coronavirus hub for information and advice.

FAQs on Scottish childcare and nurseries reopening

Now that nurseries and ELC settings are open again, you’re probably feeling pretty relieved. But you may also have lots of questions. You can find out more about what the reopening means for you and your child and how settings are keeping everyone safe here.

On this page you can find out about: 


When are early learning and childcare settings reopening?

ELC settings and registered childminders can all now reopen.

Can my child use more than one ELC setting at the moment?

At the moment parents and carers are asked to limit the number of settings their child attends, ideally to one setting only. This is important in minimising the number of contacts across society and reducing the risk of transmission.

Children can continue to attend more than one setting if this arrangement is needed to ensure they can access high quality early learning and childcare or to meet parents’ childcare needs.

If your child attends more than one setting, you should discuss this with your childcare providers, who will work with you and each other to put in place specific risk assessments for your placements to ensure the placements are appropriate and risks are reduced. 

What can parents do to keep everyone safe?

If your children are returning to nursery, here are 5 important things you can do to make sure everyone stays safe.

  • Wear your face covering at all times when you’re dropping your children at nursery or school and when you’re picking them up.
  • Only one parent at a time should do drop offs and pickups.
  • Stay 2 metres from other parents at the gates and avoid travelling to and from school in groups with others.
  • Don’t car share with other households and limit using public transport if you can.
  • Look out for symptoms at home and follow Test and Protect guidance if anyone shows any signs of COVID.

In this short video, Carrie Lindsay, Executive Director at Education and Children’s Services in Fife Council, talks us through these steps.

Can I attend my child's nursery graduation?

The Scottish Government is advising that parents shouldn't attend outdoor or indoor events in ELC settings. 

This may be disappointing, but it will help everyone stay safe, and help keep essential childcare settings open now and over the summer. At the moment it's still important to limit the number of contacts that children and ELC staff have, to reduce the risk of them needing to self-isolate if someone in the setting tests positive for coronavirus. 
However, children can still celebrate with their friends and with staff - many ELC settings have found creative and safe ways to celebrate this important life event in line with the guidance, so ask your nursery if they have anything special planned for your wee one.  


Will my child’s childcare setting be safe?

Young children are less likely to be affected by or transmit the virus, and there has been a great deal of work at each ELC setting across Scotland to make sure they’re safe. Each setting must carry out a risk assessment that they’ll be able to share with you.

They will have strict policies on hygiene and ventilation, and children will be helped to wash their hands regularly. They may also make more use of outdoor space. Children will work in groups to limit contacts. Your child’s setting will be happy to talk you through all the procedures they have in place to help you feel more comfortable.

In this short video, mum Danielle shares what it’s like having her kids back at nursery, and explains what ELC settings are doing to keep everyone safe.

Will ELC staff be tested for coronavirus?

Staff in ELC settings can access twice weekly asymptomatic testing. You can find out more about the testing programme here.

What about physical distancing?

Children under 12 don’t need to physically distance from other children or adults. This means children can play together and staff can, for example, change nappies, hold kids’ hands and give them a hug.

Some settings might keep children in groups and limit the interaction between other children. Your setting can let you know if they’ll be doing this.

However, staff and parents will need to physically distance from each other, which is why some things, such as pick up and drop off, may change to ensure this can happen.

Every ELC setting will have its own guidelines so contact your child’s setting to learn more.

Will my child have to wear a face covering to nursery?

No, they won't need to wear face coverings. The guidance on face coverings is that under 5s shouldn’t be wearing them. (If your child is over 5 and wants to wear a face covering, then you can speak to your nursery).

What should I do if my child has coronavirus symptoms?

It's extremely important that you continue to look out for symptoms of the virus amongst your own family. The most common symptoms are:

  • new, continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste.

If your child has symptoms, or who has had contact with someone with symptoms, they should not go to ELC, and must be tested. They should remain at home and, if they were tested because they have symptoms, everyone in the household should self-isolate as well until they receive their test results. If the test is negative, everyone can stop isolating and your child can return to ELC. If the test is positive, they and everyone in their household must isolate for 10 days. 

Support is available to help you to self-isolate. You can either phone the National Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 111 4000 from Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm, or visit the NHS Inform website to find out more. If you can’t work while your household is isolating, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant.

You can find out more about symptoms to look out for and getting the COVID-19 test here. 

Should I tell the nursery or childminder if my child has COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes, it’s important to let the nursery know if your child is not attending and why. It’s also important for ELC settings to record any COVID-19 symptoms among children and staff, as this can give early warning of any possible clusters of COVID-19 cases.

What happens if my child develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at ELC?

Nurseries and other ELC settings will be on the look out for symptoms. If they notice a child is unwell, or a child says they feel ill, the child will be looked after safely until they can be collected. As with any child who feels unwell at ELC, the staff will do their best to comfort and reassure your child. 

Other siblings at ELC or at school should also return home as soon as possible and self-isolate with their household. All members of the household should remain at home until the person with symptoms gets tested (see 'What should I do if my child has coronavirus symptoms?' above).

Will everyone be told if someone in an ELC setting has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19?

Personal information is confidential and will not be shared. But if your child has been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus, they will be contacted and asked to isolate and get a test. If you can’t work because your child has to isolate, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant.

If there is a positive case at your child’s nursery or ELC setting, all families will be told what’s happening as soon as this has been agreed with the setting, the local authority and public health. This will not include details of who has tested positive. 

If you know of any children or families who have symptoms, or test positive, it’s best not to share this information. It is up to each individual to decide if information about their health is shared.

What if there is an outbreak at my child’s ELC setting?

All childcare settings will be on the lookout for potential outbreaks. This means that if you or your child shows symptoms of coronavirus you should book a test immediately and follow self-isolation guidelines. All settings will have plans in place if there is an outbreak and Health Protection Scotland will prioritise the outbreaks through Test and Protect.

If there is an outbreak in an ELC setting will everyone be tested? Will everyone be sent home?

If an outbreak is confirmed, the local Health Protection Team will carry out a risk assessment and work with the setting and local authority to plan the next steps. This will include who should get tested and who does not need to get tested. It's unlikely that everyone will need to be tested. The test is most reliable if you have coronavirus symptoms. However, the Health Protection Team will sometimes test wider groups of people when there is an outbreak. This is an extra public health measures to control the spread of the virus, and only when the risk assessment suggests this might be helpful. 

The risk assessment will also decide if anyone else needs to be sent home. The setting should not usually need to be closed. Any plans to send children home will be shared with families as soon as possible. 

Who counts as a close contact?

A close contact is somebody who has been near someone with coronavirus and could have been infected. Close contacts may have been near the infected person at some point in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared, or at any time since their symptoms appeared. 

Being near someone means: 

  • having face to face contact with the person within 1 metre for any length of time 
  • being within 1 metre of them for one minute or longer without face to face contact 
  • being within 1-2 metres of them for 15 minutes or more. 

The closer the contact, the higher the risk.

If there is a positive case in an ELC setting, will everyone in the group be a close contact?

Not necessarily. Test and Protect and the local Health Protection Team will help work out who is a close contact and needs to self-isolate and book a test.

Why is it safe for kids to mix at nursery but not at home at level 3 and 4?

If you’re in level 3 or 4, although children are mixing at their ELC settings or school, it’s still important that they don’t start having indoor play dates at home. We know it's important for children’s wellbeing to be able to play with friends, but at level 3 and 4 it’s really important that this is outdoors. 

This is because household mixing in our home environments is likely to be higher risk than mixing in ELC settings or schools, where they are following strict guidance. This means that it's more likely that children can pass on the virus either to each other, or to whichever adults are present, in the home environment. 

So if you’re in a level 3 or 4 area, do let your children have playdates, but please make sure they are outdoors and following the guidance. Our page on coronavirus guidelines for children explains the rules for meeting up safely outdoors.


My child is worried about returning to nursery, how do I help?

This has been a hard time for everyone and it is no surprise that some children are worried about returning to early learning and childcare or nursery. Younger children may not be able to express their concerns to you but you may have noticed a change in their behaviour.

After being at home with you for so long it’s understandable that some kids might be hesitant about going back to nursery. Read our article on how to help with your children's worries about going back.

You might also want to speak to the nursery or childminder about how best to manage the settling in period.

Can my child have a settling in period if they aren’t used to ELC?

Speak to the setting about the best way to manage your child’s return to ELC. Settings have been asked to limit the number of adults that enter the setting, so they might have to arrange a slightly different settling in period for the moment – they might suggest things like shorter visits to nursery, or they might be able to let you play with your child in an outdoor space.

Can I visit my child’s early learning and childcare setting?

All settings will still have physical distancing restrictions in place for adults. So your child’s ELC setting won’t encourage parents to enter the building, unless you really need to, to help them settle in.

This may mean changes to things like drop offs and pickups. They will be more keen than ever for you to be involved with your child’s care, so contact them to find out how you can talk to them and keep up to date with what is going on.

How will I know how my child is getting on if face to face contact is limited?

With physical distancing rules in place, you may not be able to meet face to face with the staff as much as you used to. In some settings, staff might still be able to have a physically distanced chat with you outdoors, but other settings may have other ways of communicating how your child is getting on. For example, they could send emails, texts, photos or make video calls.


How many other children will my child be playing with?

Settings will ensure that the children play together in groups, and that where possible those groups are consistent, and are looked after by the same staff members. This will avoid children coming into contact with too many other people at once.

The appropriate size of groups will depend on the age and overall number of children, and the layout of the ELC setting. However, it would be reasonable to expect children to be managed in groups up to the size encountered in primary school, for example 25 to 30 children.

Will children still get snacks and meals at nursery?

If your childcare setting usually provides meals and snacks, this can continue, although they may change the way they do this to make sure eating areas stay clean and hygienic.

Will my child be able to play with and share toys? Is this safe?

Yes. The setting will be responsible for keeping toys and equipment the children use clean and hygienic. This includes resources like playdough and water. Some settings might swap some of the toys or materials that they normally have for others that are easier to keep clean.

Can my child bring their own toys with them?

Some ELC settings may ask children not to bring their own toys into the setting with them. However, if your child has a favourite toy that helps settle them, you can ask the nursery or childminder if it’s okay for them to bring it along.

What changes to drop offs might there be?

To encourage physical distancing amongst adults there may be staggered drop offs to stop parents all dropping off their wee ones at the same time. Those travelling by car may be asked to park further away.

It is likely that you’ll have to do the drop off outdoors, as settings have been asked to limit adults coming into the building. Each ELC setting will have their own plans in place to manage this, so they will be in touch to let you know.

You should always wear a face covering when dropping off or picking up children from ELC settings.

We’re all being asked to remember not to make the return to ELC an excuse for meeting up with friends and to stick to the rules about meeting other households. You can keep up to date with the rules here.


Why is my child spending so much time outside?

Young children learn through play. Early years practitioners are very skilled at creating opportunities for children to engage with the curriculum through play, both outdoors and indoors. Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve wellbeing and resilience. It’s great for children’s physical and mental health, and also provides children with the opportunity to develop a lifelong appreciation of the natural world. There’s more and more evidence about the positive impact that learning outdoors can have on educational attainment.

Won't my child get sick if they play outside in all weathers?

It's not true that being outside in cold or wet weather will make you more likely to catch a cold or flu. With suitable clothing, children can be outside in all weathers, exploring the natural world and building their physical and mental resilience. Spending time outdoors is even more beneficial during the coronavirus pandemic, as it's harder for the virus to spread outside.

My child comes home from nursery with dirty clothes when they play outside. What can I do?

Whether children play outside or inside, they are often likely to get their clothes dirty. If it's possible, send your child to nursery in clothes which they can get messy in. If it’s difficult to afford outdoor clothing, or you have concerns about them getting messy, speak to your nursery, as they might be able to help. Many nurseries may also have outdoor jackets or play suits which children can put on to go outdoors. You could also see if you're eligible for a Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment, which can be spent on items like a coat or boots.


My child has been shielding, can they go back to early learning and childcare?

As coronavirus levels rise, advice on whether children who have been shielding should be at nursery has changed, depending on the COVID-19 protection level your area is in. For more information, go to our page on shielding guidance.

My child has additional support needs, can they go back?

Children with additional support needs can go back. Just speak to your early learning and childcare setting about any worries you have. We have a page with more guidance on going back to early learning and childcare and school for children with additional support needs.