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Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - return to school in August 2021

Published: 4 Aug 2021

Advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues on the return to school in August 2021.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues - return to school in August 2021



The sub-group recommends that, to allow time for all remaining staff to have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and to monitor the impacts of the updated policy on self-isolation in children and young people, other mitigations that are currently in place in schools should remain in place for the period to the end of September (subject to review).   

In particular, this means that:

  • the current requirements for physical distancing between adults, and between adults and school aged children and young people wherever possible, should remain in place. To ensure closer alignment with the position in wider society and planned changes in ELC, the requirement should be for physical distancing of at least 1 metre.  However, if schools already have 2 metre physical distancing arrangements that work well, and do not limit capacity, then they may wish to retain these
  • associated mitigations such as staggered start and stop times and one-way systems should remain in place to facilitate distancing
  • face coverings should continue to be worn by adults and secondary-aged pupils in classrooms, as well as in communal areas and when moving around the school building.  They should also continue to be worn by adults in communal areas and when moving around the building in ELC settings

In line with the move to Level 0 and beyond, all restrictions on indoor and outdoor drama activity, music (low risk and higher risk, including singing, and one to one lessons indoors for all age groups) and physical education and dance (contact and non-contact) should be removed. All safety mitigations should continue to apply in relevant settings where these activities are taking place (e.g. good ventilation, enhanced hygiene, etc.).

Schools should continue to support twice-weekly at-home LFD testing for staff and secondary pupils, and consideration should be given to how to increase the uptake of testing.

Subject to review of the data and evidence in September to assess any impact of the change in policy on prevalence, serious illness and hospitalisation, schools should then move to a position where the baseline mitigations set out below are in place to reduce the risk of transmission and stop the virus resurging. All other (non-baseline) mitigations should be removed.  

The baseline mitigations that the sub-group advises should remain in place in schools for a longer period are:

  • children, young people and staff should stay at home and self-isolate if they:
    • have symptoms of COVID-19, whether they feel unwell or not
    • have tested positive, even if asymptomatic
    • are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons
  • good hand hygiene and surface cleaning in school environments and on dedicated school transport
  • a renewed focus on the importance of good ventilation and the potential for CO2 monitors to be utilised to ensure good air quality in enclosed spaces
  • requirement to wear face coverings on dedicated school transport in line with  the position on public transport
  • ongoing need for outbreak management capability, including active surveillance
  • assessments on the use of PPE should continue to be undertaken for those who work in close contact with children and young people

In addition, the following baseline mitigations should continue for a period after the end of September, but consideration should be given to adjusting the approach thereafter so that they are only required where indicated by community prevalence and based on the advice of the local Director of Public Health and local public health teams.

  • face coverings should be worn by adults and secondary-aged pupils in communal areas and when moving around the school building
  • asymptomatic testing for children and young people in secondary schools and school staff

When it is advised to move to baseline mitigations:

  • face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms for secondary learners (although learners and staff may still choose to wear face coverings)
  • physical distancing will follow the approach in wider society beyond Level 0 which, in line with the Review of Physical Distancing in Scotland, is currently expected to be the removal of all distancing indoors and outdoors.  This means that it will not be required in school and ELC settings or on school transport, but it remains important to remain cautious and exercise personal responsibility, recognising that, where possible, it is safer to keep a distance from other people

As part of the approach to the changes to the policy on self-isolation, and the phased removal of mitigations, the sub-group recognises the critical role of Directors of Public Health and local health protection teams in working with local authorities and schools/ELC staff in managing any future significant outbreaks in schools if there are associated concerns about emerging health impacts on school communities or on the wider community. Clear guidance to support this approach will be helpful.