Further guidance to employers published.
To ensure front line staff in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) have access to essential childcare provision, employers are being urged to think critically about what staff are considered key workers.
The plea from the Scottish Government and COSLA comes as further guidance on key workers is published.
Before seeking childcare places, employers should consider:
• working with unions and workers to identify only those staff absolutely necessary to deliver the COVID-19 response and to provide essential and safe services
• introducing new shift patterns, working from home, recruiting more staff or dropping non-essential tasks
• having discussions with staff to identify if they can access any appropriate alternative childcare. This may include another parent or carer who is not a key worker
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
“We all have a vitally important role to play in the fight against COVID-19. For some that will involve a front line role in a hospital, but for others, staying at home to care for your children will also help to save lives.
“Where children are unable to safely stay at home, including vulnerable children, local authorities are providing childcare. However, only key workers who cannot fulfil their critical functions when they are working remotely from home may qualify for critical childcare provision.
“The number of children taking up these places must be kept to an absolute minimum. The priority must be for children of the most critical key workers and for the most vulnerable children in our society.
“I would urge employers to look at the guidance and consider if there is any way they can provide their essential services in a way that enables children to stay at home.”
Alison Evison, President of COSLA, said:
“We recognise the extreme pressures faced by all businesses and employers at this very difficult time. Our priority is to ensure that vital services continue as far as possible. Local authorities have worked tirelessly to ensure that there is provision available for the children of key workers in an extremely tight timescale. However, our capacity to do so needs to be established in line with public health advice.
“The safety of our children, young people and staff is paramount. This guidance is aimed at making sure we all work together to get through this crisis while trying to minimise the impact on our society and economy.”
Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and ELC closures - guidance for key workers
Published: 24 Mar 2020
Guidance setting out what childcare and learning provision we expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
24 Mar 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): school and ELC closures - guidance for key workers
This guidance was updated on 24 March 2020.
This guidance sets out what childcare and learning provision we expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and day care of children, including early learning and childcare (ELC), services to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Closure of school and day care of children services is an important part of our efforts to protect public health – if we all do the right things now, we will reduce the impact of the virus and save lives. We have asked local authorities to keep opening of physical settings to the minimum required.
Are all schools and ELC settings closing?
To help slow the spread of coronavirus, we have decided that:
- all schools; and
- all local authority early learning and childcare settings
should close to children and young people with effect from 1700 on Friday 20 March 2020, with the exception of any critical provision to protect some key groups or activities.
- Key workers: to ensure that children of key workers, for example NHS and social care staff, can still get learning and childcare if their parents absolutely must go to work.
- Vulnerable children: to ensure that protection and support is still available for identified children who may be particularly vulnerable in the current circumstances, for example those in receipt of free school meals, children with additional support needs and at-risk children.
Some schools and local authority ELC settings may open for these purposes, but that will depend on the arrangements local authorities make for their local areas.
No school or education setting should be open for the purpose of young people completing coursework for SQA national qualifications or undertaking ‘prelim’ style practice exams. The Chief Examining Officer confirmed on 24 March that schools and colleges are not required to submit learner coursework for marking for Higher and Advanced Higher courses and that National 5 coursework, due to be uplifted in April and May, will not be submitted for marking. The SQA will be providing further details of its approach to certification this year as soon as possible.
What about private and voluntary sector childcare settings?
We have said that private and third sector childcare providers can stay open, provided they:
(i) support only the children of key workers and vulnerable children; and
(ii) wherever possible, they work with local authorities in their areas to do this.
Childminding services can continue to operate for now, but further guidance will be issued to childminding services imminently. This page will be updated with the latest position as soon as possible.
We have strongly encouraged local authorities to involve private and third sector childcare providers in delivering critical provision. This may mean that these providers are involved in local arrangements for school-aged children as well as younger children.
Which key workers qualify for critical childcare and learning provision?
We have asked local authorities to make provision for children of key workers in their areas to ensure that their parents can continue to work.
The initial definition of key workers is as follows. There should be a particular focus on:
- Key workers in posts which ensure that essential services can be delivered and cover tasks within the local community which support the vulnerable and aid community resilience. This may be slightly different in each community to allow the country to address local priorities. Whilst decisions will be taken at the local level, we would expect this to include consideration of:
- Category 1 – Health and Care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; Health and Care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; Energy suppliers (small numbers identified as top priority already); staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff.
- Category 2 – All other Health and Care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (e.g Fire, Police, Prisons, Social Workers, etc), as well as those supporting our Critical National Infrastructure, without whom serious damage to the welfare of the people of Scotland could be caused.
- Category 3 – All workers (private, public or third sector) 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).
Local authorities have been asked to take this definition as a guide and prioritise critical childcare and learning for key workers accordingly. They should consider any circumstances that mean that specific classes of worker are critical in their local contexts.
Will all key workers qualify for critical childcare and learning provision?
We have told local authorities that, if one parent is a key worker and the other is not, the non-key worker should normally be expected to provide childcare. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
In general, we expect that if key workers can perform their critical functions effectively when working remotely from home, they should do so. Please consider carefully any appropriate alternative childcare arrangements that can be put in place before seeking critical childcare and learning provision.
What critical childcare and learning provision will be in place in my area?
Local authorities will decide what learning and childcare arrangements for the children of key workers are most appropriate for local circumstances.
We have asked, where possible, that provision is made available beyond the school day, in partnership with providers of out of school care and after school and holiday clubs. However, this will depend on the provision that local authorities are able to make in their local areas.
From when will critical childcare and learning provision for key workers be in place?
We are working closely with local authorities to get critical childcare and learning provision in place as soon as we can. We expect local authority planning to continue this week.
Who should I contact if I have questions about this?
Please contact your local authority for information about the arrangements they are putting in place. See the contact details for your local authority.
Further guidance on key workers and childcare and learning provision is available to download below.
3 page PDF
Please contact your local authority for information about the arrangements they are putting in place. Read the contact details for your local authority.