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Scottish childcare and nurseries and coronavirus

Although early learning and childcare settings are now open to all children again, unfortunately coronavirus hasn’t gone away yet. Here you can find out what nurseries and ELC settings are doing to keep your wee ones safe, and what we can all do to protect our families and communities, and ensure that nurseries are able to stay open. 

What is my child’s nursery doing to keep everyone 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.

For example, settings are likely to:

  • increasing the amount of ventilation in the setting
  • helping children wash their hands regularly
  • cleaning surfaces and toys regularly
  • getting children to play together in consistent groups, to limit the number of staff and children they come into contact with
  • making more use of outdoor space

Your child’s setting will be happy to talk you through all the procedures they have in place to help you feel more comfortable.

You can find out more about what ELC settings are doing to keep everyone safe on the website.

Are ELC staff 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.

Although physical distancing is no longer required by law, your child’s setting may still ask staff to keep at least 1 metre away from each other, and from parents.

Every ELC setting has 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, they should not attend ELC and you should book them a test straightaway. 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 ELC or school). 

You can find out more about the COVID-19 test and what to do if your child tests positive 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. The Scottish Government monitors data about cases and outbreaks in ELC settings closely, and discusses it regularly with public health experts. 

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 aged 5 and over should also return home as soon as possible and self-isolate with their household until they receive test results (see 'What should I do if my child has coronavirus symptoms?' above).

What happens if my child comes into contact with someone who tests positive? Do they need to isolate?

Children and young people under the age of 18 no longer need to isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tests positive, as long as they receive a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic. Children aged 5-17, who are close contacts, must get a PCR test and isolate until the results come through. If the results are negative they can return to school. You can find out more about the COVID-19 test and what to do if your child tests positive here.  

Children under 5 don’t have to get a PCR test, although it’s a good idea to book a test for them if you can. They can go back to nursery or childcare without a PCR test as long as they don’t have any symptoms. This reflects the lower risks of infection and transmission in this age group, and the fact that younger children may find it harder to tolerate testing. 

If you're not sure whether you or your child should be isolating, this guide from NHS Inform can help you work out when you need to self-isolate and for how long.

If I need to self-isolate, can my child still go to ELC?

If you need to self-isolate as a contact of someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus, your child can still attend ELC, as long as they don’t have any symptoms.

If you’re isolating because you’ve tested positive for coronavirus, you should follow the close contact advice above (see 'What happens if my child comes into contact with someone who tests positive?').

If you’re self-isolating, you’ll need to think about the practical arrangements. For example, you’d need to arrange for someone else who isn’t self-isolating to take them to nursery and pick them up. Remember that, if the person doing pick up and drop off isn’t a member of your household, you shouldn’t come into direct contact with them and they shouldn’t come into your home.

Our page on staying safe from coronavirus has more information on self-isolating. 

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, even though they won’t be required to self-isolate, the childcare setting will let you know that there has been a case in the setting and to be extra vigilant for symptoms. If your child is aged 5 or over, they will be 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. 

What can parents do to keep everyone safe?

There are also important things parents and carers can do to keep everyone 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.
  • Although physical distancing is no longer required by law, it’s still a good idea to keep your distance from other parents outside the nursery if you can.
  • Look out for symptoms at home and follow Test and Protect guidance if anyone shows any signs of COVID.

Nurseries may continue to have staggered drop offs to stop parents all dropping off their wee ones at the same time. If you’re travelling by car, you may be asked to park further away, and for only one parent or carer to come to pick up.

It’s likely that you’ll have to do the drop off outdoors, rather than coming into the setting. However, each ELC setting will have their own plans in place to manage this, so they will be in touch to let you know.

Why are things different in ELC settings from elsewhere in society?

Throughout the pandemic, ELC settings and the Scottish Government have done all they can to help keep settings open and safe for children and staff. This means that some restrictions that have changed elsewhere are staying in place in ELC settings for a while longer, to ensure everyone stays safe. This is why, for example, you may not be able to come into the setting with your child.

The restrictions will be kept under close review and, when they can safely be eased, they will be.

Can my child use more than one ELC setting?

Now that we’ve moved past level 0, your child can attend more than one ELC setting, although the settings involved should still carry out a risk assessment in collaboration with you to make sure everyone stays safe.

Can I come into the nursery with my child?

Parents and carers can now come into nursery with their child to help them settle in when they start. However, you’ll need to arrange this in advance with the nursery as there are still restrictions on the number of people who can visit in one day. You’ll also need to wear a face covering and physically distance while you’re there, and it’s a good idea to take a test before you come as well, to be on the safe side.

Your child’s nursery may also have virtual tours taking place that you can access – contact the setting to find out more.

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.