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FAQs on Scottish schools reopening


When are schools going back in Scotland?

All primary and secondary pupils can now return to school on a full-time basis.

What can parents do to keep everyone safe?

As schools reopen, there 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 1 metre 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.

What are my childcare options?

Our guide to childcare explains your options at the moment.

What if schools need to close again?

We understand you may still be feeling worried about what will happen if coronavirus cases go up in your area. If your child isn’t able to go to school at all, the school will have a plan in place for them to learn from home. If remote or blended learning has to be put in place, schools will still be open, but pupils will only be in class on certain days of the week. Take a look at our home and blended learning page to learn more.

How does the levels system affect schools?

Whatever COVID-19 protection level your area is in, schools settings will be staying open under the levels system, unless there’s an outbreak at a particular setting. 

Protection measures across levels 0-2 of the strategic framework have been strengthened, particularly with regard to the greater use of face coverings.

At levels 3-4, in addition to the standard protective measures, enhanced protective measures require the use of face coverings by teachers and young people.

Level 3

  • If your child is at high clinical risk, you should discuss with their GP whether they should still attend school. Our page on shielding guidance has more information.
  • Teachers and school staff at high clinical risk should ensure that all protective measures are in place to keep them safe.

Level 4

  • If your child is on the shielding list they should not attend school. Our page on shielding guidance has more information.
  • PE in schools can only take place in outdoors.
  • Non-essential activities or clubs will stop taking place, however, regulated out of school care within the school can continue. 


How will the school keep everyone safe?

The school will be following guidelines to keep pupils and staff safe. The school will be cleaned more often and everyone will be washing their hands much more regularly. Classrooms will be well ventilated and pupils will have more time for outdoor learning. Other precautions may be put in place – each school building is different, so for more details on what your child’s school is doing you can contact them directly. There are also further updates to the requirements on face covering in secondary schools (see below). 

What can my child do to help keep themselves and everyone else safe?

All children and staff should follow good hygiene practices:

  • frequent washing/sanitising of hands for 20 seconds and drying thoroughly, and always when entering/leaving the building, before/after eating and after using the toilet
  • avoid touching their faces including mouth, eyes and nose
  • using a tissue or elbow to catch a cough or sneeze.

In addition, it’s really important that you and your children stick to the rules about meeting up with other people outside school. Our page on meeting others has the latest information.

What about physical distancing?

Primary school children do not need to distance themselves from each other. However, wherever possible, teachers, staff and other adults should stay 1 metre away from each other, and from the children.

This may not apply to P1 and P2 children and some children with additional support needs, but measures will still be taken to keep them and their carers at home and school safe.

In secondary schools, steps will be put in place to try to encourage children to physically distance as much as possible from other children and staff. Schools will be doing everything they can do to maintain physical distancing while making sure everyone can go back full time.

Outside school, pupils aged 12 and over should continue to stay 1 metre apart (except in a level 0 area, where they don’t need to distance from people in their group of up to 15).

Why is it safe for kids to mix at school 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.

Will staff and pupils be tested for coronavirus?

All secondary school staff and pupils are being offered twice-weekly at home COVID-19 tests. Testing is voluntary, but participation is encouraged to help keep school communities as safe as possible. Our page on testing in schools has more information.

Will school drop offs and pick-ups be the same?

Schools are asking that all parents follow physical distancing rules, and to help stop crowding at the school gates, are asking that only one parent/carer should be dropping off or picking up their child. It's also advised that if your child can walk safely to and from school without an adult, or can be dropped off and met at a safe distance from school then this will make physical distancing easier for those who have to take their child. Your school will be in touch to let you know of any specific arrangements. 

You should always wear a face covering when dropping off or picking up children from school, unless you're exempt.

We’re all being asked to remember not to make the return to school 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.


Will my child have to wear a face covering at school?

Children in nurseries and primary schools will not be expected to wear face coverings or personal protective equipment (PPE) at school. Any child or adult that has been advised or wants to wear a face covering or any PPE will be supported to do so. For more details see our page on face coverings.

At the moment, all staff and pupils at secondary school should wear a face covering at all times.

Parents should also wear face coverings when dropping off or picking up children from school. 

How should my child wear and look after their face covering?

In order for your child’s face covering to keep them and others around them safe, it's important that they know how to wear and look after their face covering. 

Make sure you discuss the following with them:

  • Face coverings should not be shared with others. 
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on, and try not to touch your face. 
  • It’s important to make sure the face covering is the right size to cover the nose, mouth and chin and you shouldn't touch the front once it's on.  
  • When you take it off, try not to touch the part you’ve been breathing on. 
  • When you're not using your face covering (for example, during class), it should be placed in a washable bag or container. Avoid placing it on surfaces, due to the possibility of contamination. 
  • If it's a fabric face covering, keep the face covering in a plastic bag until you can wash it, then wash it at 60 degrees centigrade after each day of use. It can go in the wash with other laundry. 
  • If you're using a disposable face covering, wrap it in a bag and put it in the bin. 
  • Every time you apply or remove a covering, it's important that you wash or sanitise your hands first and avoid touching your face. 

Why should my child wear a face covering in some areas in secondary school?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have found that wearing a face covering helps protect yourself and those around you. 

When moving in corridors, at break time, lunchtime and in communal areas, there are larger crowds of different age groups. The larger the crowds, the more noise, which can make people have to raise their voices. Raising your voice means you project your sound further, but it also means you project air droplets further too. 

At the moment, all staff and pupils at secondary school should wear a face covering at all times.

What if secondary school pupils do not have a face covering?

If your child doesn't have access to a face covering for school, or if they lose theirs during the school day or it becomes dirty, your child can speak to someone at your school who should be able to provide one for them. However, it's a good idea for them to keep a spare face covering in a washable bag or container in their school bag or locker, just in case.

You can make your own face covering from most fabrics. Find out how to make your own here.

You can also use something clean you already have lying around – anything that covers the nose and mouth that is made of textile, like cloth that you can breathe through, such as a scarf, is considered a face covering. 
Children aged 11 and over can also use their Young Scot card to get discounts on face coverings at the following shops: 

  • Firebox – 10% off 16+ year-olds 
  • Footasylum – 10% off when you shop in-store 
  • Topshop – 10% off when you shop in-store 
  • Cotswold Outdoors – 15% off with Young Scot Membership online 
  • As part of the Young Carers package, you can get Etsy vouchers that can go towards buying a mask. 

What about their school clothes?

School uniforms/clothing should be washed and cleaned as normal.


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. If a child has symptoms 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 and everyone in their household must isolate for 10 days and the rest of the household should also book a test. 

If you can’t work while your household is isolating, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant.

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. 

Find out more about the COVID-19 test here

Should I tell the school if my child as coronavirus symptoms?

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

What happens if my child needs to self-isolate?

If your child needs to self-isolate, the school will have plans in place to allow their learning to continue.

Our pages on staying at home and helping your child with home and blended learning have information and tips to help you if they need to self-isolate.

If you can’t work while your child is isolating, you may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant.

What happens if my child develops symptoms of COVID-19 while in school?

All schools have plans in place for how to respond to any potential cases in school. If your child develops symptoms while they’re in school, they should let an adult know. Make sure your child knows what the symptoms are, so if they start to feel poorly they can tell someone straight away. They’ll then be looked after safely until they can be collected. As with any child who feels unwell at school, the staff will do their best to comfort and reassure your child. 

Other siblings in the school, or in other schools or ELC settings, 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. 

What happens if someone in school tests positive?

When someone tests positive for COVID-19 they will get a phone call from Test and Protect. Test and Protect is Scotland’s public health response to stopping the spread of coronavirus. For children under the age of 16, the parent or carer will be contacted. Test and Protect give advice and take details of any recent close contacts. They will talk through what a close contact is. Those contacts will be called by Test and Protect and asked to self-isolate and book a test. 

If your child has been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, they'll also be asked to get a test, even if they don’t have any symptoms. This will help more cases to be identified, and slow the spread of the virus. Even if they test negative they'll still need to isolate for the full 10 days, in case they become infectious after the test. If they test positive, they'll need to isolate for a further 10 days from the date of the test, and your whole family will need to isolate and get tested too.

If someone at your child’s school tests positive, or several people have symptoms, the local Health Protection Team will carry out a risk assessment and support the school to decide what to do next. The circumstances and the next steps may be different in different schools. 

Parents and carers will be informed that there is a positive case in school. Unless you are contacted and advised otherwise, your child should attend school as normal, provided they are well and have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Will everyone be told if someone in the school or class 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. However, the rest of the household will not need to isolate unless your child develops symptoms.

If there is a positive case at your child’s school, all families will be told what’s happening as soon as this has been agreed with the school, 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’s an outbreak of coronavirus at my child’s school?

All schools 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. Your family must then follow self-isolation guidelines. Schools have plans in place if there is an outbreak. Health Protection Scotland will also prioritise school outbreaks through Test and Protect.

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: 

  • being 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.

What if there’s an outbreak of coronavirus in our area?

If there’s a local outbreak of the virus which affects your school, there will be a discussion between the school’s headteacher, the local council and local health protection teams, and they’ll decide what action needs to be taken. They might decide to temporarily close the school. If this happens your child will be provided with work to do at home, and learning will move online for a while. Our page on home and blended learning explains more.

What happens if coronavirus rates start to rise again?

If at any point the evidence shows that it’s not safe for children to be in school on a full-time basis, whether at a national or local level, steps will be taken to reduce the risks. This may mean that for a period of time, in some areas, measures such as temporary remote learning may be taken. Schools, local authorities and the Scottish Government will continue to monitor the evidence and health advice closely.


Will my child’s education be affected by all this?

There are no planned changes to the curriculum. Some schools may stagger reintroducing schoolwork, and there may be some changes to how some subjects are taught, to reduce risks.

At first schools will be focused on supporting children’s health and wellbeing. This has been a difficult time for all of us, and particular for children, and it's necessary that teachers focus on helping children and young people feel more settled, which will support their learning.

This might mean that your child’s school will take a phased approach to reintroducing formal schoolwork. Your child’s school will decide what makes most sense for their own pupils and adjust their approach to learning, teaching and supporting their pupils as needed. Take a look at the Scottish Government’s plans on reintroducing the curriculum to learn more.

What will the school day be like for primary school pupils?

As much as possible, teachers will keep lessons and the way children learn the same as they were before coronavirus, so they won’t feel that anything is different. However, there may be some changes to the way classrooms are laid out, to give everyone more space. 

Your child’s teacher may also plan more of their lessons outside or in other areas of the school and the focus will be on ensuring that your child is supported as much as possible in their return to school.

What will the school day be like for secondary school pupils?

Most pupils will continue to study the same range of subjects as they usually would. There may also be changes to the S1 to S3 school timetable so that year groups and classes can stay together in the same area, meaning children will move around buildings and classrooms less.

Will my child’s choice of subjects be affected?

Most senior school pupils will have already picked their subjects for the new year. These should not be limited by any measures in place to keep children safe at school and your child’s school should support them to learn in a way which is best for them.

To make sure everyone stays safe, there may be some changes to lessons with lots of practical activity that usually require pupils to share equipment (for example, chemistry, art or design and technology) but generally these subjects will still be taught. If you have any concerns you should speak to your child's school.

Can they still do practical subjects like PE and Music?

Yes, but some may not be available immediately when they go back. They will be reintroduced during the term once guidelines on how to do it safely have been developed. These are just as important as more traditional subjects, and ensuring children are able to do them again is a priority.

Schools understand that being active is important for children’s physical and mental health so will be planning how they can best use outside spaces to allow children to take part in sport and physical activities.

What will happen at lunchtime?

Schools may introduce staggered break and lunch times. This means that children may have their lunch at slightly different times and in smaller groups.

If your child receives free school meals, they will continue to get these. However, the school may provide these in different ways and will let you know about any changes.  

If pupils go out of the school grounds for lunch they should follow the rules in place, for example, wearing a face covering if they go into a shop. 

What’s happening about exams?

The 2021 National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that secondary schools and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) are taking a different approach to deciding this year’s National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher results. The SQA’s website provides a Q&A page which attempts to answer all of the key questions that you and your teenage child might have. They also have an information booklet explaining what you need to know for the 2021 qualifications.

I’ve heard it’s going to be colder at school – can I get help to buy warm clothes for my child?

With windows open to ventilate classrooms, it may be a bit chillier in school than it used to be, so it’s important your kids are wrapped up warm. Some schools may have second hand uniform sales, while your local charity shop is also a good source of warm winter woollies and coats.


Why is my child spending more time outside during the school day?

Schools are keen to make better use of the outdoors as the evidence shows that there is less chance of catching coronavirus when outside but there are other benefits too. When children spend time playing and learning in the outdoors they're more active, engaged and likely to have better concentration when returning to their classrooms. 

Won’t my child get sick if they are outside in all weathers?

It's not true that being outside in cold weather will make you more likely to catch cold or flu. Schools may ask you to provide warm clothing or waterproofs so your child can be comfortable and relaxed and get used to being outdoors in the rain. The outdoors will help them to be more active and have a healthier lifestyle as they grow up. 

Many schools have spare outdoor clothes that can be accessed or you may be able to get financial help through a clothing grant.

Will my child still be able to learn if they have lessons outside?

Learning across all subjects and stages can be delivered outdoors with great effect. It allows your child to develop and build their skills and knowledge, and can help your child to make sense of the world around them. The outdoors encourages children to think creatively and build up resilience, awareness of risks and can help with problem solving.  

Teachers can also take the class to different spaces – school grounds, local parks or further afield for visits to national parks, outdoor education centres, beaches and mountains.  

I’d like my child to learn more outdoors but my school are not providing the opportunity. What can I do?

Every school wants to develop their curriculum to meet the needs of its children and community so if you have any concerns or ideas you would like to see happening then speak to your child's teacher or contact the school.  


Will there still be breakfast and after-school care?

Breakfast and after-school clubs for primary school age children can now reopen. Measures will be taken to ensure that children who attend after school clubs are kept safe and that the chance for the virus to spread is minimised. 

Where possible, try to limit the number of out of school care settings your child attends, as it’s still important to minimise the number of people they have contact with. Contact them or your school directly to find out more.

What about after-school clubs?

At first, after-school clubs like sports clubs, bands, choirs and other groups probably won’t be running, but will be reintroduced later in the term. Further guidance is still being developed to provide more detail.


How will my child get to and from school safely?

Where possible your child should travel to and from school on foot, bike or scooter while maintaining physical distance. You and your child should wash or sanitise your hands before and after travelling.

If your child uses public transport they should follow current guidelines and wear a face covering while they travel, if they are aged 5 or over. They should also wear face coverings on school transport.

Your school will be providing you with local guidance on how your child can get to and from school safely.

Why is it so good to walk, wheel, cycle or scoot to school?

It’s been proven that children who do some form of exercise before school, especially a walk, do better in class because they arrive feeling refreshed, fit and ready to learn. So by walking, wheeling, skipping, scooting or cycling instead of going by car, your kids can start the day feeling active and energised.

And leaving the car at home is better for the planet too. During peak morning traffic times, one in five cars on the road are taking children to school, contributing to congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. So how about converting some of these rides to strides?
For tips and resources on making the journey to school active, safe and fun visit the Living Streets website.


Can I visit my child’s school?

There are still physical distancing restrictions in place for parents and families so schools will not want to encourage visitors. This might make you feel less welcome but your child’s school will still want to hear from you. They’ll encourage as much involvement from parents as possible, even if they can’t enter the school.

What about parents' evenings?

Keeping you up to date with how your children are doing will be more important than ever. You will receive report cards and phone calls to let you know how they’re doing. While parents’ evenings won’t happen in the same way, your child’s school will make sure they take place in a way that allows physical distancing. Contact the school to find out more about their plans.


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

This has been a hard time for everyone and it’s no surprise that some children are worried about returning to school. We have a number of pages on how you can support your teenager or younger children’s mental wellbeing. We also have a page on helping them be around more people again after such a long time away from others.

My child has additional support needs, I'm worried about them going back to school.

We have information to help you and your child settle back into school. See our page on supporting your child with additional support needs for more information.

What if my child has been shielding?

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

Will there be support available for members of the Minority Ethnic community?

The Scottish Government, educators and childcare providers recognise the concerns within ME communities, and individual requests for additional protections should be supported where possible. Schools should ensure that ME staff, pupils and families are involved in decisions about additional protections.

I’m really worried about sending my child back, can I keep them at home?

If you’re worried about sending your child back to school, get in touch with the school to talk through your concerns with them. The Scottish Government’s guidance states that schools should speak to any parent or carer who is thinking about keeping their child off school and provide reassurance and support attendance in any way they can. This could include making a plan to help your child settle in.

Someone in our household has been shielding, is it safe for my child to go back to school?

Although shielding has now been paused, if someone in your household has been shielding or has been told by their GP that they should continue to be careful, you may be concerned about your child returning to school. If this is the case, talk to the school about any worries you have. They can help you decide what’s best for your child and your family.

More information

The National Parenting Forum Scotland have created learning at home and back to school guides for parents which also have lots of helpful information.