Communicating with families and the community
How to stay in touch with children during coronavirus closures
Advice for early years practitioners wanting to stay in touch with key children during the crisis
Early years practitioners have a special relationship with the children in their care. This is particularly true for key persons in your setting and the children they are assigned to.
While the coronavirus crisis has created significant financial and practical challenges for early years providers, the sudden closure of settings has also had an impact on children and practitioners alike.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but during such an anxious and uncertain time it is particularly difficult. Many providers are not sure when they will be able to reopen and if they will get a chance to see children again before they start school.
For young children particularly it is hard for them to understand why they won’t be visiting your setting again or seeing their favourite key person for quite some time.
We’ve got a few suggestions to help you stay in touch with families during the crisis:
Staying in touch
- Provide parents with your most recent summative assessment of their child’s learning and development. Make suggestions as to how they can support any skills their child was on the cusp of mastering, or that they may need a little more support with.
- Create an online album of photographs you have taken with the children and share with families so that children can look through them with their families.
- If parents are willing and able to, ask if you can use Facetime or Zoom to speak with children.
- Ask parents to share tasks with children – such as asking them to draw a picture to share with you.
- You could record or livestream a storytime session. Use one of the children’s favourite books and try and make it a regular activity. Parents can use the videos multiple times if needed to help keep you in their children’s minds.
- Share some activity ideas with parents – think of things that you may have usually done in your setting that they can recreate easily at home.
NOTE: If any staff in your setting have been ‘furloughed’ under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they should NOT be asked to do any work during this period. Staff cannot do any work that creates revenue or provides a service for your setting. This includes online activities such as story reading.
Any staff who have not been furloughed, such as managers or owners, may still continue to carry out tasks during this time. If you are unsure on this, please get in touch with ACAS or Alliance members can get in touch with the Law-Call legal helpline.
Alliance member Maureen Dyroff from Jack and Jill Pre-school in Oxfordshire got in touch with the Alliance to share how her team has been keeping in touch with their families. They have been sending useful information and weekly themes and activities to continue the learning through the EYFS, through their electronic record keeping system. They also post on their facebook page.
Maureen also shared this lovely poem that one of her staff wrote - a really personal way of sharing some activity ideas while maintaining connection between children and their key workers.
Talking to children about coronavirus
It is inevitable that even very young children will pick up on the levels of anxiety around them about the virus, even if they do not fully understand the context of the current situation.
Therefore, it is important that early years practitioners respond to any concerns that children express in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner.
- The Children's Commissioner has created a free, downloadable Children's Guide to Coronavirus. The guide aims to answer children’s questions about coronavirus, tell children how to stay safe and protect other people and how to help them make the best of their time at home.
- The Alliance also has a blog post you can read called How to talk to children about coronavirus.
- There are government guidelines on COVID-19: supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The government has published guidance for parents in which it says on the issue of parent fees during closures:
"We are asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents".
As with any widespread infection that could pose a threat to their children, parents may be understandably concerned.
Social media and word-of-mouth in a community can sometimes be a source of misinformation, particularly if you hear of cases of coronavirus locally.
You can reassure parents who are worried by sharing up-to-date information and advice from reliable sources.
While you will probably have your own social media policies in place, it would be sensible to advise any staff - whether working or furloughed - to refrain from sharing sensitive information online which may cause undue distress or unnecessary concern.
It is important to note that any content shared on social networking sites could potentially end up in the public domain, even if it appears to be ‘private’ or is on a closed profile or group.
Your staff should always be aware of wider implications of sharing such information in their personal networks.
Download template letter: