NURSERY bosses will need to care for children in small "cohorts" and improve hygiene under guidelines to re-open amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Government guidance for nurseries and early-learning providers re-opening in phase three of the lockdown routemap includes operators maximising the use of any outdoor space – while social distancing measures will be required during drop-off and pick-up times.

The guidelines indicate that "it is not appropriate for young children to maintain models of physical distancing between each other" as well as between young children and staff.

But it warns that nurseries "should establish cohorts of children who will work together consistently throughout sessions" of up to eight children.

It adds: "These cohorts should work with the same staff members, as much as possible, throughout the session during both indoor and outdoor learning and play. Membership of the cohort should not change."

Interaction between groups of children will also be kept to a minimum.

If nurseries have been closed for a long period during the pandemic, "appropriate and thorough cleaning of the premises" before they can re-open.

The guidance adds that "toys and equipment that children access should be cleaned each day" and between sessions.

It also warns that "sand, water and playdough should be used only by one cohort of children".

Nurseries should "encourage children where age appropriate not to touch their face, use distraction methods and keep children busy, rather than making this an issue".

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Children's Minister Maree Todd said: "We all want our youngest children to be back enjoying their nurseries and playing with friends as soon as possible. 

"However, the safety of children and staff must come first, so nurseries and other childcare settings can only fully reopen when public health advice tells us it is safe to do so. 

"This new guidance makes clear the principles that should be followed in preparing for staff and children to return.” 

She added: "Our fantastic childcare practitioners know their settings best, and they will be responsible for ensuring all necessary steps are taken to restart high-quality learning and care in a nurturing and safe environment." 

Some nurseries have remained open to provide childcare for key workers during the pandemic. 

Nurseries which are fully outdoors have been able to open since June 3, as part of phase one of Scotland's exit from full lockdown.