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FAQs on Scottish childcare and nurseries reopening

Not having access to childcare has made this a really difficult few months for a lot of parents. As nurseries and other childcare settings reopen, your feelings might be a mix of relief at having childcare again, and worry about how they will work when they reopen. This is perfectly natural.

To help ease your worries and prepare your wee one to go back or to start at nursery or with a childminder we have answers to some questions you may have. If your child is nervous about returning or starting, we have some tips for helping them settle in too


When does early learning and childcare reopen?

We don’t expect all early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to open straight away, and different places may have different plans. Childminders and fully outdoors settings were allowed to reopen from 3 June, while registered early learning and childcare providers like private nurseries were able to open from 15 July.

However, not all settings were able to open straight away. Some term-time settings like school nurseries are likely to reopen when schools do, from 11 August. Your child’s ELC setting will let you know their plans. Contact them directly if you have any specific questions.

Can my child use more than one ELC setting?

If needed, to ensure access to childcare, you can now use more than one childcare setting. So for example you can send your child to nursery in the morning and a childminder in the afternoon, if they can’t stay in the same setting. However, it’s best to stick to one setting if you can. If you do use two or more settings, you should let all settings know of your arrangements.


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 new procedures they have in place to help you feel more comfortable.

What about physical distancing?

Children under 12 don’t need to physically distance with 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 is 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.

Anyone with symptoms, or who has had contact with someone with symptoms should not attend school. They will be asked to return home and be tested. They should remain at home and everyone in the household should self-isolate until they receive their test results. If the test is negative, everyone can stop isolating (and return to school). If the test is positive, they must isolate for 10 days and those in the household for 14 days. 

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. 

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. 

If there is a positive case at your child’s nursery or ELC settings, 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 is 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?

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: 

  • face to face contact with the person within 1 metre for any length of time 
  • within 1 metre of them for one minute or longer without face to face contact 
  • 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 stay at home.


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. Under the new guidelines, 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.

My child is moving up to primary after the summer, how can I help them?

Having schools and early learning and childcare settings closed has been particularly difficult for children who are due to move from ELC to a new school. They’ve missed out on some of the preparation they would have had at nursery. We’ve compiled some tips to help prepare them for the big day.


I have heard my child will be in a ‘bubble’ at nursery, what does this mean?

Until 10 August, children in ELC settings were in “bubbles” or cohorts of 8 other children. However, given the ongoing suppression of the virus and updated scientific advice, this is not required at the moment.

Settings will still 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.


Why is my child spending so much time outside? When will they start learning things they need to know for school?

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?

Yes. Children who are coming out of shielding can go back from 1 August 2020 if you want them to. However, it’s best to talk to your GP or healthcare team first. If they are happy for your child to attend, you should also talk to the nursery or childminder about any extra precautions they may need to take.

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

Children with additional support needs can go back as well. 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 ASN.

For more information, you can see the full early learning and childcare services guidance from the Scottish government here.