Baby and toddler groups - a guide for reopening in 2021
Baby and toddler groups - or 'parent and child groups' as the government refers to them - are now allowed to operate both indoors and outdoors.
Here we answer some of your key questions about reopening.
You can read the guidance in full here: Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak
Government guidance overview
- How many people are allowed to attend baby and toddler groups?
Current government guidance states that: “Groups must have no more than 15 attendees”.
However, this does not include:
- children under five
- anyone who is working as part of the group, such as a group leader.
As of Monday 17 May, this limit will increase to 30.
- Do adults have to wear face coverings?
Only where social distancing isn’t possible. Government guidance on parent and child groups recommends that “adults wear face coverings where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas)”.
- Do we need to enforce social distancing?
Yes, between adults. Government guidance on parent and child groups states that group leaders should ensure that “social distancing is maintained between adults who do not live together and who are not in the same support bubble or childcare bubble”.
- Are singing/music activities allowed?
The DfE updated its guidance on 10 May 2021 to state that from 17 May, where singing is taking place outdoors, "multiple groups of 30 attendees can take part. This limit includes children aged under 5, so where the parent and child group has more than a total of 30 attendees of all ages, they should divide into groups of 30 or less and remain in these groups for the duration of the session".
Where singing is taking place indoors:
- no more than 6 adults in the room, including the group leader, should sing and singing should be limited to the same 6 adults for the duration of the group session
- good ventilation with fresh air should be maintained throughout the session
The rationale given for these limits in the guidance is that "taking account of the evidence about singing and COVID-19, singing is considered safer when limited numbers of people sing together".
The guidance adds that "there is guidance in the music, dance and drama section [of the Actions for Early Years guidance] and additional guidance that should be followed in the principles of safer singing and performing arts - working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)".
- Do we need to keep a record of those attending the group?
Yes, government guidance states that the group leader should ensure that “a record of all visitors to the setting is kept”.
Designated venues - including community centres, village halls, leisure centres, multi-use premises and places of worship - must display an official NHS QR code poster at their entrance, or at the point of service. This enables customers and visitors to scan the NHS QR code when they arrive by using the NHS COVID-19 app. New NHS QR posters can be generated here.
Organisations must also have a system for individuals who do not have a smartphone or the NHS COVID-19 app to provide their contact details.
- the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group (of up to 6 people) and the number of people in that group
- a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people. If a phone number is not available, you should ask for their email address instead, or if neither are available, then postal address
- date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
- the name of the assigned staff member, if a customer or visitor will interact with only one member of staff. This should be recorded alongside the name of the customer or visitor
You do not have to request details from people who check in with the official NHS QR poster, and venues should not ask them to do both.
- How long do we need to keep attendance records for?
Government guidance states that to support NHS Test and Trace, you must hold any records that have been created for 21 days solely for the purpose of NHS Test and Trace (records which are made and kept for other business purposes do not need to be disposed of after 21 days but should still comply with GDPR regulations and not be kept for longer than necessary).
After 21 days, information collected for NHS Test and Trace must be securely disposed of or deleted in a way that does not risk unintended access (for example, paper documents should be shred and electronic files should be permanently deleted).
- Reducing transmission risk
Signing in and out: Many baby and toddler groups have traditionally encouraged parents and carers to sign in using a pen and signing-in sheet – however, in light of the pandemic, you should consider a different approach in order to minimise the risk of Covid transmission. This could involve a group leader signing everyone in themselves, or alternatively, exploring whether a digital method of signing in could be used.
If you are planning on using your signing-in sheet as your record of visitors for NHS Test and Trace, it is important that you ensure that all the necessary information is recorded (see ‘Do we need to keep a record of those attending the group?’ above).
Hand-washing: Government guidance recommends that baby and toddler group leaders should ensure that everyone maintains good hand hygiene. As such, where possible, it would be useful to provide hand sanitiser at entrance and exit points, and encourage parents and families to use it both as they arrive and as they leave.
Ventilation: Good ventilation is vital as it reduces the concentration of Covid-19 in the air, which reduces the risks from airborne transmission. As such, if your group operates indoors (once this is permitted under government guidelines), you should ensure that your space is well-ventilated with fresh air. Further government guidance on ventilation is available here.
Cleaning: Government guidance states that baby and toddler group leaders should any rooms used are cleaned after each use, and advice on cleaning is available here.
From a business or financial perspective, it is also important to consider the cost impact of additional time spent cleaning as it might, for example, affects your room hire charges if you need to be in the venue for longer than normal. If this is the case, you may want to look at whether you could reduce session times to allow for this or, if you charge for your sessions, adjusting your fees to account for this.
- Sharing information with families
In order to adhere to government guidance and general best practice of operating a baby and toddler group during the pandemic, you may have had to make changes to your normal routines, or to the layout of your group space.
To help ensure that families, and particularly children, are prepared for any changes, you should consider sharing information about any changes in advance. This could be through a variety of channels such as social media, emails/phone calls (if you have the relevant contact details), parish magazines, local noticeboards/Post Office windows, signage at your venue or communicating this information with families when they book.
Making sure that families know what steps you have taken to minimise risks and protect their safety will help both reduce anxiety and also ensure that they know what to expect upon arrival, especially if you have had to make any significant changes.
If there are any specific requirements that you need to enforce to ensure you are adhering to government guidelines – such as the need for all adults to wear masks where social distancing isn’t possible – it is again important that this is shared in advance.
- Limiting numbers and using bookings
Under current government guidance, all baby and toddler groups are limited to 15 attendees – however, this does not include children under five, or adults who are involved in the running of the group. Of course, the actual number of people you are able to have in your group space, while maintaining social distancing between adults from different households, may be lower than this, so this will need to be taken into account too – as will any additional limits on numbers that have been put in place by the management or owners of your venue.
Depending on your normal numbers, these restrictions may mean that you need to place new limits on the number of people attending your group.
If your group normally operates a ‘drop-in’ system, you may need to consider if this is a suitable approach in light of the current restrictions, as it could lead to queues at the door (which could impact on social distancing) and parents and children feeling upset or angry if they are unable to come in.
A pre-booking system could help to mitigate these risks, ensuring that you are able to adhere to legal limits on attendee numbers, and also reduce the risk of families being left disappointed at the last minute. This could be via, for example, booking apps or social media ‘events’, though you would need to consider how to ensure that whatever channel you choose is as widely accessible as all. You may also want to consider how to prevent people from block-booking, to ensure all parents have an equal chance to book a space, and whether or not you can implement a waiting list for families in case of any cancellations.
Another important consideration is how to prevent people from booking but not turning up, particularly if your group does not charge attendees.
- Use of toys and other resources
If you normally provide toys or other resources at your group, it is important to review and evaluate which items are and are not suitable for use during the pandemic. This could mean, for example, temporarily removing soft toys that are difficult to clean.
In order to limit the sharing of toys, you could, where possible, divide your space and keep certain toys in different ‘zones’, or operate a rotation system so that not all toys are taken out during every session.
Given that, even with precautionary steps, it is likely that toys will be shared between children, you may also want to consider asking the adults attending the group to take an active role and responsibility in cleaning any toys that their child has played with after use, ready for the next child to use.
Welcome Back Family Services pack
This set of three online resource packs have been developed to support children’s centres, baby and toddler groups, creches and other unregistered provision, as you consider the implications for welcoming children back to your services.
The emphasis throughout is to maintain the vital priority of keeping children at the centre of the process. Each pack has been designed to raise awareness of some of the challenges you may face, with a focus on:
- supporting mental health and wellbeing
- creating a safe and enabling environment
- meet the needs of every child from day one
You will be encouraged to reflect on the government’s guidance and consider the options for your provision.
The Family Services pack is FREE to Alliance Members or £15 to non-members and is available now from the