Coronavirus – what you need to know

 

*This page was last updated on 22 October, 2020*

(Includes guidance for those working in nurseries and the early years plus links to government guidance and resources.)

For more detailed information about coronavirus and the early years sector please visit our Covid-19 section.

We are constantly updating our Q&A page to make sure you have all the latest updates. The answers are based on the latest government guidance as soon as we get it. Read our Operating during lockdown and beyond Q and A.


NEW! Changes to Job Support Scheme and grants for Tier 2 businesses announced

The government is to introduce additional support for businesses hit by Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions and made changes to the Job Support Scheme, due to replace the current furlough scheme in November.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 22 October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced three new measures to support businesses still affected by the coronavirus outbreak:

  • A more generous version of the Job Support Scheme. Employees need to work 20% of their usual hours to qualify for the scheme and employers will need to pay 20% of hours worked and 5% of hours not worked. The scheme is open to all businesses that can show the impact of Covid-19 on their revenues, regardless of local Tier.
     
  • A new grant scheme for businesses affected by Tier 2 restrictions, even if they have not been forced to close, worth up to £2,100 a month for businesses facing lower demand or up to £3,000 for businesses forced to close. Local authorities will be given instructions on how to distribute these funds, which can be backdated to August 2020, although they are primarily aimed at the hospitality and leisure sector.
     
  • Grants paid through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will cover up to 40% of previous earnings, increasing from a maximum of £1,875 to £3,750. There will be two further grant payments between November 2020 and April 2021. Grants will also be available for those who are ordered to temporarily close or are facing significantly reduced demand in all Tier areas.

The Department for Education has confirmed to the Alliance that it is awaiting further guidance from the Treasury on how this new scheme will apply to early years providers in receipt of early entitlement funding.


NEW! Covid cases doubling in early years settings

The number of Covid-19 cases reported in early years settings has been doubling since the first week of September, according to new statistics from Ofsted.

Obtained by the Labour Party, the statistics show an increase from 14 cases in early years settings at the end of August 2020 to 181 on 28 September.

In response, the Alliance has called for home testing kits to be made available to nurseries and childminders, as well as maintained nursery schools.

Read the full story


NEW! PM announces three-tier lockdown system

The government has confirmed plans to introduce a new three-tier system of local Covid alert levels across England.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 12 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that as of Wednesday 14 October, there will be three alert levels for areas in England: medium, high and very high.

  • The 'medium' alert level will cover most of the country and will consist of the current national measures, including the rule of six. 
  • The 'high' alert level will prevent all indoor mixing between households or bubbles, while the rule of six will continue outdoors. Most areas currently in local lockdown will be automatically placed on the 'high' alert level.
  • The 'very high' alert level will be applied in areas where transmission rates are rising most rapidly. This will involve a 'baseline' of measures, including the closure of pubs and bars, and the banning of household mixing.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that it is the government's intention for education settings to remain open.

We are currently seeking clarity on how the new alert system will impact children and family services such as baby and toddler groups. 

As soon as we have more information, we will update the sector.


NEW! Government expands Job Support Scheme

The Chancellor has announced an expansion to the Job Support Scheme that will pay up to two-thirds of staff wages for businesses forced to close by coronavirus restrictions.

The scheme will cover up to £2,100 a month in wages, with employers expected to cover national insurance and pension contributions.

This is an expanded version of the Job Support Scheme, which is open to all businesses – not just those forced to close by coronavirus restrictions.

The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and will remain open for six months, although it will be reviewed in January 2021.

Read more


EYFS disapplications come to an end - Sept 25

Temporary changes - or disapplications - to the EYFS that came into force on 24 April 2020 have now come to an end.

Disapplications were introduced by the government to "allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe" during the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the learning and development and assessment disapplications were removed as of 25 September 2020, meaning providers are required to reinstate the EYFS for these areas in full from 26 September 2020.

For safeguarding and welfare disapplications (including requirements on Paediatric First Aid training), there will be a two-month transitional period between 26 September 2020 to 25 November 2020. This means that providers will need to meet these requirements in full by the 26 November 2020.

Between 26 September 2020 and 31 August 2021, all EYFS disapplications, other than the EYFS Profile disapplication, will be reapplied if the ability of providers to comply with the EYFS is impacted by coronavirus-related restrictions or requirements which have been imposed by government, such a local or national lockdown. 


Older stories and updates

Job Support Scheme to replace Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On 24 September Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new scheme to replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme when it closes at the end of October. 

The new Job Support Scheme is intended to help protect 'viable jobs' in businesses facing lower demand over the winter months as a result of the pandemic, by topping up the wages of employees working less hours than normal.

Under the scheme, eligible employees will be paid for two-thirds of any hours that they are not able to work, split evenly between the government and their employer. This means that employees will receive at least 77% of their normal pay under the scheme.

The scheme launches on 1 November and will run for six months.

To be eligible, employees must be earning at working at least 33% of their normal hours, and the level of government grant available will be capped at £697.92 a month.

All small and medium-sized enterprises will be eligible for the scheme, while large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by Covid-19.

You can read more about the Job Support Scheme here.

DfE updates 'Actions for early years and childcare providers' guidance — 22 September

The DfE has published updated guidance for all early years providers in England during the coronavirus outbreak.

Updates cover the following:

the use and disposal of face coverings supervised toothbrushing programmes process for local lockdowns

 

There is also revised wording about: employer health and safety and equalities duties; staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable; children who are shielding or self-isolating, and; safeguarding.

See the guidance in full here

  • music, dance and drama
  • maximising use of sites and ventilation within settings
  • reopening of buildings
  • journeys, such as pickups and drop offs
  • attending more than one setting
  • a child with symptoms attending a setting
  • pregnant women
  • visitors to settings; including new admissions and settling in
  • use of outdoor private and public spaces
  • informal childcare
  • supporting children’s and staff wellbeing
  • new SEND legislation
  • EYFS disapplications ending on 25 September 2020
  • emergency first aid
  • the Job Retention Bonus scheme
  • managing coronavirus cases
  • funding.
Children can be cared for by individuals outside of immediate household

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said children under the age of 14 can be looked after by someone outside of their household – even in areas with additional local restrictions.

The health secretary announced the policy change, confirming that informal childcare may continue despite the ban on mixing households in parts of the North West, North East, Bolton and Leicester.

Informal childcare arranged between households must be part of a “consistent” relationship and “one-off” playdates are not permitted.

Matt Hancock said: “It is essential that our children or dependents are well looked after and loved."

New contact advice for confirmed cases of Covid at a setting

The Department for Education has published new guidance on whom registered early years providers should contact if there is a confirmed positive case of Covid-19 at their setting.

Previously, the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak guidance stated that providers should contact their local health protection team directly if they became aware that someone who had attended their provision had tested positive for coronavirus.

However, this guidance has now been updated to state that: "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 advisors 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."

Read the guidance in full here.

Childcare, youth and activity groups exempt from 'rule of 6'

The government has confirmed people will still be able to meet in groups of more than six for registered childcare (including wraparound care), youth groups and activities, and other children's groups when new rules on socialising come into force on Monday 14 September. 

The government has confirmed plans to legally limit most social gatherings to no more than six, down from 30.

However, the new rules include a number of exemptions, and these include childcare providers, youth activities and children's groups.

The relevant guidance is available here (see sections 2.10 and 2.15)

Temporary EYFS disapplications to be removed by 25 September

Temporary changes to the EYFS came into force on 24 April 2020 - these are referred to as 'disapplications' and were introduced by the government to "allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe" during the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the learning and development and assessment disapplications will be removed as of 25 September 2020, meaning that providers will be required to reinstate the EYFS for these areas in full from 26 September 2020.

For safeguarding and welfare disapplications (including requirements on Paediatric First Aid training), there will be a two-month transitional period between 26 September 2020 to 25 November 2020. This means that providers will need to meet these requirements in full by the 26 November 2020.

Between 26 September 2020 and 31 August 2021, all EYFS disapplications, other than the EYFS Profile disapplication, will be reapplied if the ability of providers to comply with the EYFS is impacted by coronavirus-related restrictions or requirements which have been imposed by government, such a local or national lockdown. 

Read the updated guidance

Summary of key steps to identify and contain outbreaks 

The government has published a new concise summary of the steps early years providers should take to identify and manage possible Covid-19 outbreaks.

Download the PDF

Updated guidance on local lockdowns (Aug 28)

The Department for Education has published new guidance on local lockdowns for early years providers, schools and colleges.

The guidance states that "in local areas where restrictions have been implemented for certain sectors ... education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all".

It outlines four levels, or 'Tiers', of local lockdown restrictions, ranging from Tier 1 (the most relaxed) to Tier 4 (the most restrictive). The tier of local lockdown enforced in a particular area will depend on the level of local outbreak.

Under Tiers 1 - 3, early years providers will be able to remain open to all children. Only under Tier 4 would settings be asked to close to all but key worker children and vulnerable children.

Essentially, this means that when an area is placed into local lockdown,  it is unlikely that early years providers will be asked to (partially) close, and this will only happen in limited circumstances, if deemed absolutely necessary.

The full guidance is available here.

Updated guidance for out-of-school providers published

The Department for Education has published new guidance for out-of-school providers operating in the autumn term.

Updates made to the 'Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings' guidance state that when schools reopen in September, out-of-school providers should "keep children in small groups of no more than 15 children with the same children each time wherever possible ... and at least one staff member, depending on the type of provision or size of the group".

The guidance also states that: "Where it is possible to do so, providers should also try to work with parents, the schools or early years settings which children attend to ensure, as far as possible, children can be kept in a group with other children from the same bubble they are in during the school day."

Where it is not possible to group children in the same bubbles as they are in during the school day, the DfE says that providers should "seek to keep children in consistent groups, as far as possible, and frequently review these groups to minimise the amount of ‘mixing’ ".

The guidance goes on to state: "For example, when new children register for your provision, you may wish to firstly determine whether they attend the same school or early years setting as other children in your setting and group them together if appropriate."

The full guidance is available here

Ofsted releases guidance on interim visits 

Ofsted has published some new operational guidance regarding interim visits from inspectors to registered early years providers from 1 September 2020. Interim visits are not inspections and will not result in an inspection grade, however inspectors can use regulatory or enforcement actions, if appropriate.

Read 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

Self-isolation rule change

Anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus (a temperature, new continuous cough and/or a loss of taste or smell) must now self-isolate for 10 days, rather than seven.

The change brings the UK in line with World Health Organization guidance, and reflects scientific evidence which suggests that people with coronavirus have "a low but real possibility of infectiousness" seven to nine days after falling ill.

Those living with someone displaying coronavirus symptoms are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.

More information is available on the NHS website.

Update on early entitlement funding

The Department for Education has shared its plans for early entitlement funding for the autumn term 2020 and beyond.

The guidance states that local authority funding for the 2020 autumn term will be based on the January 2020 census data. The DfE says that this is in recognition of the fact the number of children attending settings may not have returned to normal levels by January 2021.

From the autumn term local authorities will be expected to continue funding providers who are open "at the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus outbreak".

They should also continue to fund providers which have been advised to close, or "left with no option but to close, due to public health reasons". Local authorities are not expected to fund providers which are closed "without public health reason".

The DfE intends to fund settings "as if autumn term 2020 were happening normally". To do this, local authorities should use the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn term to inform funding levels this autumn.

In "exceptional circumstances" local authorities will be able to "redirect early years dedicated schools grant from providers that are closed" to ensure that there is childcare available for key worker families and vulnerable children.

The DfE guidance also encourages local authorities to consider increasing the frequency of payments to providers from termly to monthly to allow for adjustments as providers reopen.

The government expects to return to the normal process for early years funding in January 2021.

The full guidance can be found here

'Bubbles' no longer required from 20 July

From 20 July, early years settings will no longer be required to keep children in small, consistent groups within settings. Mixing between the groups should still be minimised however and other protective measures will remain in place.

The government said this was possible because of 'significant progress in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19)'.

Read the guidance in full here

Guidance on protective measures for holiday clubs plus and local lockdowns

On 1 July, the government released new guidance on what schools, nurseries, childminders, early years and other educational settings need to do if there's a local lockdown during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Read it in full: Local lockdowns: guidance for education and childcare settings

They have also released guidance on protective measures for providers of holiday and after-school clubs and other activities to children during the outbreak.

Read it in full: Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Chancellor announces changes to Job Retention Scheme

On June 12 Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a series of changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which ends on 31 October.The scheme changed as of 1 July. 

Read the updated government guidance


FAQs

— Reopening FAQs: We have produced a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide on various aspects of operating beyond lockdown and reopening this autumn.

— For any questions on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Furlough Leave and Related Employment Matters please see our FAQs for providers on our Business Advice page.

— We also have an dedicated FAQ page on the Early Entitlement Funding and the Job Retention Scheme here.

 


FREE RESOURCE PACKS

The Welcome Back bundle

We have produced a free bundle of packs to support you, your children and your families as your provision re-opens, whenever you choose for that to be.

Pack 1   Pack 2   

 

Pack 1: Supporting practitioners, children and families to return to your provision

Pack 1This first pack in the bundle supports you to keep children at the heart of your provision during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) period and beyond.

Relevant to all early years workers including nursery or pre-school managers, childminders or volunteers, this resource will:

— consider the implications for a return to ‘normal’ as children, families and practitioners prepare to return to the setting
— introduce practical ideas and resources to ease the transition from lockdown
— prepare you to meet the needs of those who have suffered loss or had difficult experiences during lockdown.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

 

Watch it now! Webinar: Supporting practitioners, children and families to return to your provision

Pack 2: Preparing your premises and the early years environment

Pack 2This resource pack supports you by offering practical actions required to prepare effectively for re-opening. 

Nursery and pre-school managers, practitioners, childminders and volunteers will:

— identify the steps necessary to prepare successfully for the opening of their service and identify some changes to practice that may be required
— consider the health and safety implications for buildings where their service is situated that have been closed
— recognise the importance of creating a welcoming environment for children and their families who have been away for some time.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

Pack 3: Meet the needs of children from day one

Pack 3This pack covers:

— settling-in and supporting transitions (building on information from More About Me)
— a focus on observation and assessment
— to establish ‘where children are now’ in their learning and development
— recognising specific issues i.e. behaviour management
— safeguarding, SEND and the implications for children who have had negative experiences of being at home.

Placing the child at the centre of the process, practitioners are encouraged to consider how to create an environment — physically, emotionally and pedagogically — that ensures, as far as possible, the health and safety of children and supports their learning and development.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

 

Watch it now! Webinar: Meet the needs of children from day one

 


FREE 'WELCOME BACK' PACKS FOR CHILDMINDERS

The Welcome Back bundle

The three packs that make up the ‘Welcome Back’ bundle have been developed to support childminders as you consider the implications for welcoming children back to your home.

The emphasis throughout is to keep children at the centre of the process. Each pack addresses the challenges you may face as you provide a welcoming, safe and stimulating environment in your home. You will be encouraged to reflect on the government’s guidance and consider the options for your provision.

The templates included are easily adaptable to suit the unique circumstances faced by you and the families you support.

Supporting mental health and wellbeing  Creating a safe and enabling environment  Meeting the needs of every child from day one

 

Pack 1: Supporting mental health and wellbeing

Supporting mental health coverThe presentation focuses on your own mental health and wellbeing as well as the children in your care.

It covers:

— the emotional implications for you, the children and the families you support as we all prepare to return to the ‘new normal’

— practical ideas and resources to support you to ease into the transition from lockdown

— preparation to meet the needs of those who have suffered loss or had difficult experiences during lockdown.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

Pack 2: Creating a safe and enabling environment

Creating a safe and enabling environmentThis presentation supports you to consider some of the practical actions that are required prior to re-opening.

There is one template included that may help you to complete a risk assessment as required by the government. There is also a checklist that will help you to focus on some of the additional things that the government has identified.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

Pack 3: Meeting the needs of every child from day one 

Meeting the needs of every child coverThis pack builds on Pack One, as it relies on the information you gather prior to re-opening. There is also emphasis on using the EYFS principles to inform practice.

The presentation focuses on how you can support the personal, social and emotional development of every child from the moment they return to you.

There are four templates included in this pack.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

 


Coronavirus helpline

The Department for Education has a helpline for early years providers, schools and colleges – as well as parents, carers and young people – who have questions about coronavirus.

If you have specific questions about the virus call:

0800 046 8687

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

 


Business support

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows all businesses to apply for grants to cover a portion of salaries of staff who are not working but kept on payroll during the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care

Use of free early education entitlements funding during the coronavirus outbreak

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

The government has offered self-employed workers similar protections as employed staff during the outbreak.

Self-employed people facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will be able to claim some of their monthly earnings up to £2,500 a month. Monthly earnings will be calculated using an average of profits over the last three financial years. The scheme will only be available to people who are already self employed and have a self-assessment tax return for 2019.

Read more about the Self-employed Income Support Scheme.

Self-employed Income Scheme: How HMRC works out your total income and trading profits


Operational support

EYFS

Last updated 28 July - Updated guidance to the EYFS.

To support early years providers who remain open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Government has temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the EYFS statutory framework.

The aim of the guidance is to allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe.

Read the guidance: Early Years Foundation Stage: Coronavirus disapplications

Ofsted

Notification: Ofsted wants providers to let them know if they are opening or temporarily closing.

Ofsted has been working with the DfE and local authorities to find out which early years providers, including childminders, are currently open or temporarily closed, to see there is sufficient and accessible childcare in place to support vulnerable children. Ofsted may contact providers to ask you about your setting and plans for the future. Please check that this email comes from an @ofsted.gov.uk address before responding as soon as you can.

If your operating circumstances do change (you open or close), notify Ofsted by sending an email to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field. In the body of the email, please confirm the unique reference number for each setting and the details of the change.

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report and on your Ofsted reports page.

Ratios: EYFS section 3:30 allows for child:adult ratios to be relaxed in exceptional circumstances, where the quality of care and safety of children is maintained. Ofsted has confirmed that the coronavirus outbreak is an exceptional circumstance and that there is no need to notify them if you need to relax ratios at this time.

Inspections: Routine Ofsted inspections have been suspended however as part of a phased return to routine inspection from autumn 2020, Ofsted is carrying out interim visits. These visits are not inspections and will not result in an inspection grade, however inspectors can use regulatory or enforcement actions, if appropriate.

Fees: Ofsted has said that invoices for annual fees issued from 3 April will now have a due date of 30 September 2020, so that providers can delay payment during this time. Providers usual annual fee date will not change going forward.

Parents

The government has also published guidance for parents on the issue of parent fees during closures: "We are asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents".

The full government parent guidance is available here.

Key links for providers

Local lockdowns: guidance for education and childcare settings

Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak

Actions for educational and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020

COVID-19: Cleaning of non-healthcare settings

Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

Details on phased wider openings of schools, colleges and nurseries

Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 Recovery Strategy

Early Years Foundation Stage: Coronavirus disapplications

Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus (Covid-19): early years and childcare closures

Guidance for education and childcare settings on how to implement social distancing

Guidance on maintaining educational provision

Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision

COVID 19 - Guidance for Educational Setttings (DfE)


What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a common type of virus. They typically cause fever and a cough, which may progress to more severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties in some people, according to Public Health England (PHE).

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild and most of those who have died have had pre-existing health conditions.

Because little is known about this new strain of the virus, it is not clear how it is spread, however, similar viruses tend to be spread by coughs and sneezes – so the way the infection gains entry to the body is the same as the way it exits and spreads to others.

It is also possible that the virus may be spread by touching a surface or object that has been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the virus – such as by touching a doorknob or shaking hands with someone and then touching your face.

There is currently no specific cure for the new coronavirus so treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS advises that symptoms of the coronavirus usually include:

  • feeling tired
  • difficulty breathing
  • a high temperature
  • a persistent cough
  • a loss or changed sense of smell or taste (also called anosmia) 

Key health information links

You may wish to signpost staff and parents to credible sources of further information about coronavirus.

These sites will have all the official information you will need and should ideally be the only source of information you refer to:

COVID 19: Guidance for educational settings (DfE and Public Health England)

Coronarvirus: latest information and advice (Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England)

Coronavirus FAQs (NHS)

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - what you need to know (Public Health England)

 


For more detailed information about coronavirus and the early years sector please visit our Covid-19 section.