The First Minister has confirmed the Scottish government plans to re-open education for pre-school, early primary and senior phase secondary pupils. This reflects the government’s priorities and the wider harms posed by the disrupted learning , educational  development and lack of socialisation for these groups of children and young people in  particular. Staff in Schools and Early Years provide public services which are essential and critical to our communities and wider society.

 What UNISON is doing for Education/ELC members? 

  • At Government level, discussing the strategy and associated guidance with Ministers, Civil servants , public health officials and others
  • At Council and school / EY setting levels, ensuring the guidance is implemented through proper risk assessments and health and safety provision in the workplace. Organising a programme of workplace inspections.
  • Cleaner Schools are Safer Schools Campaign launched for school re-opening
  • Surveying and talking to our members at work during lockdown to hear their concerns (


Coronavirus (COVID19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues – advice on mitigations to minimise transmission during phased return to in-person learning has been published. The Scottish Government on 16 February allocated a further £40 million for safety in schools.

There is a link to the full guidance at the bottom of this page but considerable strengthening has been achieved by union ( UNISON)  input, including the roll out of routine testing and the emphasis on cleaning regimes.

Key messages

  • There are already a number of mitigations in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools and ELC settings in Scotland, and these all continue to apply to the new variant (B.1.1.7). Advice from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published in January 2021, on Mitigations to Reduce Transmission of the New Variant SARS-CoV-2 Virus, concluded that a step change in the rigour of application of mitigations is required, given the increased transmission risk associated with the new variant. 
  • Schools and ELC settings should therefore place very high priority on reinforcing the mitigations designed to reduce the risk for staff and pupils as set out in the existing guidance on reducing the risks from COVID-19 in schools and  supplementary guidance associated with the phased reopening of schools ; ELC settingsChildminding settings and School-Aged Childcare  ( see links below)
  • As an additional protective measure, 2 metre distancing should be put in place at the current time for secondary-aged pupils, in addition to continuing to be in place for staff in secondary schools 
  • Physical distancing requirements in primary schools remain unchanged: 2 metre distancing between adults not from the same household should be maintained. There should also be 2 metre distancing between adults and primary aged children whenever possible.
  • In line with the strengthened advice on 2 metre physical distancing in secondary schools, it will be also be necessary to ensure 2 metre distancing on school transport for secondary schools.
  • It was noted that local authorities and schools, as they begin to return on a phased basis, will start routinely to offer at-home testing using lateral flow devices to all primary, secondary and special school staff .
  •  This offer will be extended to regulated day care of children services which are non-school based, in the weeks following the start of the programme.

Early Years

The SAGE Scientific advisory group has been paying particular attention to the evidence around young school pupils and early years in recent week. UNISON has had direct briefings from, among others,  the deputy CMO Marion Bain and Professor Devi Sridhar at lunch time

Scientist say this means they are confident to advise the government that ELC and P1-3 can open safely with appropriate mitigations in place

Childminders association and OOSCs want wider openings but Scottish Government is holding the line on blended care for now: other than where it is already in place due to vulnerable children.


The more activists we have, the more likely we are to hear about, and will be able to raise, issues that are affecting you in your workplace’…

  • Attend short online UNISON training on COVID risk assessments and workplace inspections. Help you and your colleagues stay safe at work ( talk to your Branch).
  • Attend Scottish Government ‘Blethers’ and quiz senior officials direct about your safety at work ( registration link to follow)
      Schools Support Staff Friday 26 February 15.00-16.30 ( Jason Leitch)
    Early Years Tuesday 2 March 2021 ( Prof. Carol Tannahil, Chair, SAGE)
  • Support UNISON Cleaner Schools are Safer Schools Campaign

Contact your branch if you have any questions 



ELC guidance

Advisory Sub-Group advice (9 Feb) also published Friday: Coronavirus (COVID19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues – advice on mitigations to minimise transmission of COVID-19 during phased return to in-person learning – (