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CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS AND ELC SETTINGS

On 19 March 2020, the Deputy First Minister (DFM) announced that all local authority schools and nurseries in Scotland would close from the end of the school day on Friday 20 March 2020, as part of the Scottish Government’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, unless they are involved in the provision of emergency childcare.

What does this mean?

  • If your child attends a Local Authority nursery, this closed from the end of the day on 20 March 2020 (unless it is staying open to provide emergency childcare)
  • If your child attends a private nursery, that may also have closed, or it might be changing the way it operates so that it is able to provide childcare for key workers
  • If your child attends an out of school club, it is likely to have closed, or is now providing childcare for key workers
  • If your child is at a childminder, the childminder may also have stopped operating, unless it is now providing critical childcare for key workers

Please note – the advice for childminders is that they limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of two, other than their own.

This is a difficult time for families. There are a number of resources which can be used to help adjust to routines on the Parent Club Scotland website, which also has further information on home working, parental leave and financial support.

Who will still be able to access ELC?

The Scottish Government and local authorities are working together to ensure key workers with no other option for childcare can request childcare to allow that allows them to continue to play their vital role in the national response to COVID-19.

Only key workers who cannot fulfil their critical functions may qualify for critical childcare provision. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. You can contact your local authority if you think you might qualify.

Local authorities will also be identifying children who may, due to individual or family circumstances, be more likely to require access to early learning and childcare.

Where can I get more information?

Your ELC setting will give you information about their closure or their new way of operating. Local authorities and ELC settings are working hard to think about how to support families in their communities.

Parent Club Scotland also have a new ‘hub’ to support families affected by these closures, available at www.parentclub.scot/coronavirus.

Who is a Key Worker?

Key workers help deliver essential services which support the vulnerable and aid local community resilience.

Please note - Local authorities may have slightly different criteria to meet the needs of local communities. While decisions will be taken locally, guidance has been issued to local authorities that sets out the keyworkers that they are then to consider.

Category 1 represents those providing the most essential services during our national Covid-19 response.

Category 1 keyworkers include:

  • health and care workers directly supporting the Covid-19 response;
  • health and care workers supporting life-threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision;
  • energy suppliers; and
  • staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff.

Category 2 keyworkers include all other health and care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency or critical welfare services. For example, fire, police, and prison services; social workers, and so on, without whom serious damage could be inflicted on the welfare of Scotland’s people.

Category 3 keyworkers are all other workers without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to Covid-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).

Other ELC Provision

In his statement, the DFM also made clear that provision for children within school and childcare settings would continue to be required for the following priority groups:

  • Vulnerable children who often rely on childcare settings and school life for hot meals or for a safe and comforting space.
  • The children of key workerswho will require continuing access to appropriate learning and childcare that allows their parents or carers to participate in the national response to Covid-19.

What does this mean for ELC settings?

Local authority nurseries closed from the end of the day on 20 March 2020, unless they are involved in the provision of emergency childcare for key workers or in supporting vulnerable children.

Private, third sector and independent childcare providers, including nurseries and out of school care services, may have closed from the end of the day on 20 March 2020, unless they are involved in the provision of emergency childcare for key workers and vulnerable children.

Local authorities will coordinate and fund the provision of emergency childcare services and have been asked to give priority to private and third sector childcare providers to deliver this. In order to support this, the Care Inspectorate has produced registration contingency plan guidelines for childcare settings continuing to operate to provide emergency childcare for key workers and vulnerable children. These can be accessed at:

https://www.careinspectorate.com/images/Care_Inspectorate_Registration_Contingency_Plan_19_March_2020_update.pdf

The Scottish Government is looking carefully at measures which can support the childcare sector through this challenging time, recognising that it is a varied sector with a large number of small businesses, social enterprises, third sector organisations and self-employed workers.

As of 25 March 2020 childminders are advised to cease all provision apart from critical childcare for key worker families and vulnerable children until further notice. Advice for childminders is that they limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of two, other than their own.

Settings providing emergency childcare provision

Registered childcare services, including early learning and childcare providers, out of school care and holiday club providers, should contact their local authority. In the case of services which are currently unable to operate due to staff sickness or self-isolation measures, there may be flexibility to use wider staff pools or for existing staff to work in new locations.

Local authorities will provide funding for emergency childcare services and have been asked to give particular weight to using existing childcare provision and expertise including private and third sector providers across Scotland.

Emergency childcare will be implemented as soon as is possible following school and childcare closures. Local authorities have been asked to implement this by Friday 27 March where possible. Emergency childcare will be required for as long as schools and childcare settings remain closed to enable key workers to continue to fulfil their roles.

Emergency childcare will need to be tailored as far as possible to meet the requirements of key workers who will no longer be able to rely on normal arrangements for childcare. This will be based on local need and implemented by the local authority. Emergency childcare services will be required to operate flexibly, supporting families who may have children of different ages and needs.

The Care Inspectorate have produced operational guidelines which will enable delivery of emergency childcare services while continuing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children.