As many settings get ready for a break at the end of the year, it’s important to remember that the rules on self-isolation and testing are still in place, despite the coming holiday.
Here is a quick reminder of the current rules before the end of term…
Childcare over the festive break
Registered childcare providers can remain open as usual across all four tier levels, although of course many will close for a break during this time.
Families are advised against using any separate ‘childcare bubbles’ they have previously formed over the Christmas period if they are forming new ‘Christmas bubbles’ – except where “absolutely necessary” to avoid potential spreading between bubbles.
If you live in Tier 4 you are not permitted to form a 'Christmas bubble' but you can continue to use your childcare bubble, support bubble, childcare activities and wraparound care if they are still running.
Those in tier 1 and 2 have been permitted to travel abroad since 2 December. Those in tier 3 and tier 4 should not leave their tier unless it is for work, education or caring responsibilities.
Families that have travelled abroad will need to self-isolate for 10 days when they return, unless they have travelled to one of countries on the government’s “travel corridor” list.
This has recently changed from previous guidance which recommended 14 days of self-isolation after travel from a non-corridor country.
From 15 December, passengers arriving into England from a non-corridor country have the option of taking a coronavirus test after five days of self-isolation. If the test is negative, they will not need to isolate for any longer.
The rules on international travel will remain in place between 23-27 December.
Self-isolating and getting tested
If any children, families or staff members experience symptoms of coronavirus while away from your setting, they should:
book a test – all children can be tested, including children under five, but children under 11 will need to be helped by their parents if using a home test kit
be prepared to give contact details for anyone they have been in close contact with if the test result is positive or if asked to by NHS Test and Trace
self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus or has coronavirus symptoms
The guidance on self-isolation recently changed – as of 14 December, people now only need to isolate for 10 days after coming into contact with a positive case, not 14 as previously recommended.
NHS Test and Trace
The NHS Test and Trace service will be open as usual over Christmas and the New Year. Families will be able to access tests as usual, although some testing sites may have reduced opening hours and home testing will have a reduced service on bank holidays due to postal delays.
Staying in touch
Some local authorities have asked early years providers to remain contactable for at least six days after the end of term for contact tracing. This will allow enough time for positive cases to be identified and confirmed after the end of term, although most cases should be identified within the first few days.
If any staff or children test positive in the days after the end of term, they will need to let you know so that you can engage with the NHS Test and Trace service and inform Ofsted, if required.
Families should let you know if their child is self-isolating and unable to return as expected after the Christmas break.
DfE coronavirus helpline
The DfE's coronavirus helpline and PHE Advice Service will be available over the break to answer any questions you have about Covid-19 relating to your provision. However, they will be closed on bank holidays over the festive period and will have shorter operating hours on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
24 Dec - 8am to 4pm
25 to 28 Dec - closed
29 to 30 Dec - 8am to 6pm
31 Dec - 9am to 4pm
1 January - closed
2 to 3 January - 10am to 6pm
Until 24 Dec the helpline will be open Monday-Friday, 8am to 6pm. You can contac them on: 0800 046 8687.
Alliance members - To download a copy of our template letter to parents outlining the need to stay in touch in case of any positive tests results over the festive break, please visit our Members' Area where you can download a word doc ready to share with parents.