Controlling infection in your early years setting

Hand soap and masks

Rigorous infection control measures

You, your staff and your families should be confident that your service has rigorous infection control measures in place such as:

  • good basic hygiene practices such as regular hand-washing (practitioners and children) 
  • supervise young children to ensure they wash their hands for 20 seconds more often than usual with soap and water
  • clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces more often than usual using your standard cleaning products
  • waterproof dressing to cover on any existing wounds or lesions
  • personal protective equipment (PPE) such as aprons and gloves are used as necessary
  • clear procedures are in place for cleaning equipment and wider environment
  • immediate cleaning of spillages of blood and other bodily fluids
  • clear procedures on safe disposal of waste
  • infection control guidance and management procedures in place which are clearly understood and adhered to by staff
  • any items that come into contact with mouths such as cups, bottles and straws should not be shared.


Public Health England advises that children and staff should be encouraged to catch sneezes with a tissue, bin the tissue and wash their hands.

You should also remind children to wash their hands:

  • after outside breaks
  • before meals and snack times
  • after using the toilet
  • when they arrive at your setting
  • at the end of the day before they go home.

If you do not have access to soap and water to hand at the time, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used instead. Look for products with minimum 60% alcohol. It is important that everyone should try not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Public Health England has resources and public information about handwashing.

Posters and lesson plans on general hand hygiene can be found on the eBug website

What should I do if a child starts displaying symptoms of Covid-19?

If anyone in your setting develops a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and be advised to follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

This sets out that they must:

• self-isolate for at least 10 days

• arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19)

Action list

1. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital except in an emergency.

2. Call parents/legal guardian to collect child and take them home. Advise them that all household members will need to isolate and refer them to the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

3. While the child is awaiting collection, move them to an isolated room and open a window for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

4. Since it’s unlikely that staff caring for a young child while they are awaiting collection will be able to maintain a 2 metre distance, they should wear suitable PPE

— If 2m distance cannot be maintained a face mask should be worn

— If contact is necessary then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn

— If there is a risk of fluids entering the eye (e.g. from coughing, spitting or vomiting) then eye protection should also be worn.

More information on PPE use can be found in the Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.  

5. If the child needs to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

6. Staff/other children who have had contact with the symptomatic child must wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.

7. When parents/legal guardian pick up the child, advise them to get the child tested and notify you of the results.

8. Once the child has left the premises, thoroughly disinfect/clean all surfaces and touchpoints they came into contact with (including the bathroom if used).

What to do if a child tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you become aware someone who has attended your setting has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) you should contact the DfE Helpline on 0800 046 8687 and select option 1 for advice on the action to take in response to a positive case.

You will be put through to a team of advisers who will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice.

If, following triage, further expert advice is required the adviser will escalate your call to the local health protection team.

The health protection team will also contact settings directly if they become aware that someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) attended the setting - as identified by NHS Test and Trace.

The local health protection team will work with you to carry out a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact with the person during the period that they were infectious, and ensure they are asked to self-isolate.

The local health protection team will then work with you to guide you through the actions you need to take.

Based on the advice from the local health protection team, you should send home those people who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive, advising them to self-isolate for ten days since they were last in close contact with that person when they were infectious.

Close contact means:

  • direct close contacts - face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin to skin)
  • proximity contacts - extended close contact (within 1-2m for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
  • travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person

You can read the government guidance in full here.

Download: What to do if a child or adult is displaying symptoms, or is a confirmed case, of coronavirus (COVID-19) in an early years setting

Reporting an incident to Ofsted

Ofsted has created a page for providers who need to report a Covid-19 incident at their setting.

Visit the page.

Getting tested

The government has confirmed that asymptomatic home testing kits will be made available to private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nurseries and pre-schools in England from 22 March 2021. The tests are to be used by setting staff twice a week at home.

However, the Department for Education has yet to confirm details of any planned rollout of home testing kits for registered childminders, who as it stands have been advised to continue using community testing centres. The Alliance is in urgent discussions with the DfE on ensuring that the whole sector has access to these vital tests.

Read more detail on lateral flow testing in early years settings and how the scheme will work.

Additional questions and updates

Do practitioners need to use personal protective equipment (PPE) in childcare settings?

Most staff in education, childcare and children’s social care settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others.

PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases if:

an individual child, young person or other learner becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained

a child, young person or learner already has routine intimate care needs that involve the use of PPE, in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.

You can read more detail on PPE here: Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

Do practitioners need to wash or change their clothes immediately after leaving the setting?

PHE and the DfE have confirmed that there is no need to clean your clothes immediately after leaving work at a childcare setting – this is only required by healthcare professionals.

Practitioners simply need to follow the guidance here.

Updated guidance on supervised toothbrushing programmes in early years settings

The wet brushing model is no longer recommended during the COVID-19 recovery phase as it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry brushing.

Read the guidance here

Latest government advice and support

Covid-19: Early outbreak management - quick key steps for providers to identify and contain any potential outbreak

Safe working in education, childcare and children's social care settings

Early years and childcare: Coronavirus Covid 19

Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - updated 10 July 2020

Guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings - updated 15 July 2020

Free infection prevention resources


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