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Reopening of schools and Early Learning and Childcare settings - FAQ

With schools now preparing to reopen their doors in August, parents are likely to have lots of questions about how this will work for their children. Here we aim to answer as many questions as possible to help you prepare.

Some of the details are still being worked out so we’ll be adding more questions and information soon. Some of the answers will be different depending on whether your child is attending an Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) setting or school, and on the different settings and schools themselves.

Schools, ELC settings and local authorities are all working towards getting everything ready to reopen and will contact parents as soon as they can to let them know what will be happening. Parents should allow schools and settings time to work through the changes before getting in touch.

When are schools and ELC settings reopening?

When will schools reopen?

The Scottish Government is planning to reopen schools on 11 August 2020 if the science indicates that it is safe to do so. Your child’s school will provide more details to you on their opening date when this is decided.

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Will ELC settings reopen in August?

ELC settings will only open when it is safe to do so. At the moment there is not a set timeline for reopening, beyond the critical childcare currently being provided for keyworkers and vulnerable children. However, childminders and outdoor nurseries may be able to open sooner than other settings. We’ll be adding more information here for parents before settings reopen. 

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Why are children not going back in June as they are in England?

The decisions on when schools in Scotland should return are based on the scientific advice on the spread of coronavirus and what is best for children in Scotland. This advice may be different in other parts of the UK and because of this, schools may open at different times and in different ways in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Schools in different parts of the UK also have different term times and holiday periods, which means that children attend school at different times even under normal circumstances. 

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Will it be safe?

Is it safe for my child to go back to school?

The main priority for all schools will be to look after your children’s safety and wellbeing, and to ensure that they can continue to learn and make good progress. They will all be putting measures into place to make sure that staff and pupils are safe, and can stay a safe distance away from each other.

The decision to reopen schools will be based on scientific evidence. This suggests that the virus is sufficiently under control to start planning for reopening, and that by putting measures in place to keep children and staff a safe distance from each other and making sure everything is kept clean and hygienic, children can return safely.

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Will staff be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Staff in schools and ELC settings will not generally need to use PPE unless they would normally need to (for example, in a chemistry lesson), even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. PPE is only needed in a very small set of circumstances. This might include where the care of children already involves the use of PPE, in which case schools will continue to make this available to staff.

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How can my child get to and from school safely?

Your school will be in touch to let you know the safest way for your child to get to school. 

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Will there be physical distancing in ELC settings?

Physical distancing simply isn’t desirable or appropriate when caring for younger children, either practically or in terms of child development. Instead, ELC settings will be introducing other measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and children, for example, caring for children in small, discrete groups and making more use of outdoor space. There is still a need for adults to physically distance, including staff and parents/carers. New arrangements may be put in place for drop off and pick up times to help parents and carers physically distance too.

These measures will be based on public health advice and the experiences of ELC settings that are currently open to provide critical childcare.

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What about childcare needs between now and then?

My child normally attends summer holiday childcare – will this be available this year?

If your child is currently using critical childcare provision, this will continue over the summer holidays. Your local authority will share more information about arrangements in your area. Wider childcare provision will only reopen when it’s safe. We’ll be adding more information here for parents before settings reopen. 

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What’s happening about childcare for key workers’ children?

Existing childcare provisions for key workers’ children will continue throughout May, June and July. If you think your child may be eligible, you can find out more at www.gov.scot/keyworkerchildcare.

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I’ve been asked to return to work and I’m not a keyworker – what childcare will be available to me and when?

Childcare provision will reopen when it’s safe to do so. The Scottish Government is asking employers to be flexible with employees who are currently unable to return to work, working from home or are working under different arrangements due to childcare commitments. 

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What will school be like?

What will schools be like when they reopen?

In order to keep everybody safe, schools will be making some changes to the way they run. These changes are being made to ensure that all staff and pupils can stay a safe distance apart from each other and do not come into contact with too many people, while supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people. The main change will be that fewer pupils will be in school at any one time. This means that pupils will take it in turns to go into school for a few days or a week, and then learn at home for the rest of the time. Pupils will start to spend more time in school as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Exactly how this works will be different from school to school – your school will be planning for this already, and will be in touch with you as soon as they can to let you know how it will work for your child, and which days they should come in.

Other changes could include:

  • making changes to how or where pupils are dropped off and picked up
  • changing how people move around the school buildings
  • putting up signs and markers to ensure appropriate physical distancing
  • changing seating arrangements so pupils are well spaced out
  • ensuring everyone washes their hands regularly
  • teaching in smaller groups
  • staggering lunch and break times
  • deep cleaning more frequently
  • holding more lessons outside where possible.

Teachers will be doing everything they can to help pupils adjust to this ‘new normal’, which will seem very strange at first. The first few days after schools reopen are likely to be focused on welcoming pupils back and getting used to the new set up rather than lots of learning.

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Who will decide which children go to school when? Can my children all go to school on the same day?

This kind of decision will be up to the school, and they will do their best to accommodate your circumstances wherever possible. If you’re worried about the arrangements they have put in place, you should contact your child’s school to discuss this.

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While schools have been closed, my child's teacher has provided work online and they have been in touch regularly. How can teachers do this from August if they’re teaching in school as well?

Local authorities and schools are currently reviewing the availability of teaching staff and making plans to ensure that all pupils are able to learn effectively and make good progress, whether in school or at home. 

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What about other school activities, like sports and music clubs?

This will depend on your school. However, it’s likely that at first schools will focus on the core school day, and extra activities will be reintroduced later, when it’s safe and possible to do so.

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Will parents’ evenings still take place?

Your child’s teachers will continue to update you on their progress, but it’s likely that face to face meetings such as parents’ evenings will happen in different ways. Your child’s school will contact you to let you know what these new arrangements are.

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What will ELC be like?

Will there be a transition for children returning to ELC?

ELC settings are thinking about the best way to support children who are starting at a new setting or returning to a familiar setting that looks and feels a bit different. Your local authority or ELC setting will be in touch to let you know what’s changing and how they’ll be supporting your child.

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If nurseries go back part time, can my children attend on the same days?

This will be up to individual local authorities and ELC settings, so you’ll need to discuss this with them when your child’s ELC setting is preparing to reopen. However, if this is required, then they will be asked to consider the needs of their families.

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What if I don’t want to send my child to ELC? Will I still have to pay?

No one will have to send their child to ELC if they don’t want to. Learning at home will still be an option.  No family of an eligible child will have to pay for their 600 hours of funded ELC. If you pay for private childcare, this will depend on the arrangement you have with your setting.

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How will I balance work and learning at home?

How can I balance work with days when my child is not in school? Will childcare be available?

Wider childcare provision will only reopen when it’s safe. At present the Scottish Government is asking employers to be flexible with employees who need to stay at home with their children. Our page on working from home has tips and advice to help you.

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What support will I get to help my child learn at home?

Any learning at home will be arranged and supported by your child’s teachers. You won’t be expected to ‘home school’ your child in the formal sense and teachers will be available to help and support your child with their learning at home. We have lots of useful advice and tips about learning at home here.

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What’s happening about transitioning to new schools?

My child is due to start primary or secondary school in August – how will they be supported?

Before schools return in August, children due to start P1 or S1 will be supported to start their new school. Local authorities and schools are working to provide virtual tours of schools, introductory videos and information to help you and your child with this transition. Your child’s school will be in touch with you once these arrangements are in place.

There are also some simple things you can do to help your child prepare for the move – read our pages on starting primary and secondary school for some tips.

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My child should be starting school in August but I’d prefer they didn’t – can I defer and keep them in ELC?

Schools will be doing everything they can to support children when they come back to school, no matter what year they’re in. Local authorities and schools are working hard to make sure that children have a positive transition, so that they’re ready to start school. However, if you’re considering keeping your child in ELC for an extra year, you should speak to your local authority, who can explain the deferral process in your area.

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My child is in P7 or S6, will they miss out on the leaving prom/ceremony altogether?

Children who have missed out on opportunities to celebrate leaving school will have the opportunity to do so at a later date. Your child’s school will be thinking about appropriate ways for children to mark these important changes, and will contact you to let you know how these arrangements will be made. Make sure you keep in touch with updates from the school to see what they’re planning to do.

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What if I or my child has concerns about going back to school or ELC?

My child is worried about going back to school – how can I help them?

Talking to your child about how they’re feeling about going back to school or their ELC setting is really important. Many children will be excited about seeing their friends and teachers, so when you’re talking to them about going back, make sure you emphasise these positive aspects so that they start to look forward to it.

However, it’s understandable that your child may be worried about going back to school or ELC after spending so much time with you at home. This is normal, and the school or ELC setting will be expecting it. If your child is feeling worried or if you have any concerns about how they will feel going back, you should discuss this with their teachers or ELC practitioners, who will be able to provide further advice and support. 

Our page on supporting your child’s mental health has more tips on how you can help your child manage any worries.

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My child has additional support needs – what does this mean for them?

Some children, including children with additional support needs, may require more support to return to school or ELC settings, or may require additional arrangements to ensure they’re kept safe. In these circumstances your child’s school will be in touch to discuss how best to support their return to school.

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My child or someone else in our household is shielding – should my child go back to school?

If your child is shielding they should continue to learn from home, and will be fully supported by their teachers to do so. If you have any concerns about your child returning to school, you should contact their teacher or headteacher to discuss this. 

If a child lives in a household where someone else is shielding you should continue to follow the latest government guidance on shielding and contact your child’s teacher or head teacher to discuss this further.

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I don’t want my child to go back to school – what can I do?

It’s important that children return to school if they can do so safely. If you have any concerns about your child going back, you should contact their teacher or headteacher to discuss this. If they need to stay at home, they should continue with learning at home based on the advice from their teachers.

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Someone in our household has coronavirus symptoms – should my child go into school?

No. If you or anyone else in your household develops symptoms of coronavirus such as a high temperature or a new and continuous cough or a loss of/change in smell or taste, that person must stay at home for 7 days. In addition, everyone else in the household must stay at home for 14 days. You can find all the information about what you need to do in the NHS Inform website here

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What is likely to happen in the future?

What are the plans for qualifications and exams in 2020/21?

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is assessing the situation with regard to qualifications and examinations in 2020/21. 

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Will schools shut again if the virus gets worse?

If the virus gets worse after restrictions have been lifted, schools may need to close again, possibly even at short notice. These decisions will be taken based on the advice from experts and your child’s school will make you aware of the specific arrangements.

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When will schools return to normal?

Schools will not return to normal until it’s safe to do so. At the moment a date cannot be set.

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