EYFS changes in the coronavirus crisis
Updated arrangements for disapplications and modifications to the EYFS were put in place from 26 September 2020 until 31 August 2021 “to allow providers to use the specific disapplications and modifications if any local or national government-agreed coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions impact their ability to deliver the EYFS.”
Alliance quality and standards manager Melanie Pilcher explains the temporary changes to the EYFS during the coronavirus crisis.
If early years providers are concerned about whether a child is eligible for a place either as a vulnerable child or as the child of a critical worker, they should refer to the criteria stipulated by following the links given in the guidance.
The guidance further elaborates the role of local authorities to work with providers to ensure there are enough places for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children by coordinating provision for children where their usual setting is closed.
The DfE launched a new data collection process on 6 April 2020 to gather information from local authorities about which children are accessing childcare and whether there are enough places available.
In some cases, a provider may have concerns about a child they consider vulnerable, but who is not yet receiving support. Providers have the flexibility to use their professional judgment in discussion with their local authority as to whether they should offer a place in such circumstances.
The guidance also reminds providers that eligibility for the early years pupil premium, or the disadvantaged 2-year-old entitlement should not be determining factors in assessing vulnerability.
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
The EYFS still applies, however, there are some areas which have been further clarified in response to FAQs as follows:
Ratios remain the same for private, voluntary and independent early years providers. Exceptions can be made during the crisis, as the EYFS already allows for changes to ratios in exceptional circumstances (3.30). Providers should ensure that they keep the safety and well-being at the heart of any decision to reduce their ratios during Covid-19 and use “reasonable endeavours” to ensure that at least half of their team holds at least a relevant L2 qualification to meet staff:child ratios – although this will not be a legal requirement.
A risk assessment approach will help providers to determine whether they can operate safely. Where this is not the case, they should speak to their local authority to discuss options such as sharing provision or merging with other settings.
Providers that have remained open during the crisis may need to get back to full staffing levels once the period of temporary changes has ended. For these providers, there will be a transitional period of up to two months, where the relaxed requirements around qualification levels will be allowed to continue.
These are still required for new staff (3.11). If an application had been made but the DBS disclosure has not arrived, new staff and volunteers can still care for children as long as they are supervised by someone with a DBS check.
Under no circumstances can an unchecked member of staff be left alone with children. We have received several queries from the sector about the portability of DBS checks during this time so it is reassuring to have had clarification that where a worker is already engaged in regulated activity and has the appropriate DBS check, there is no expectation that a new check should be obtained for them to temporarily move to another setting.
The onus remains on the receiving setting to satisfy themselves that the appropriate checks. This could also include seeking clarification from the existing employer.
Learning and development
Early years providers should use 'reasonable endeavours' to meet the existing learning and development requirements, instead of this being something they ‘must do’. Providers should tailor their curriculum, or educational programmes, to what is appropriate to the children currently in their care. This will involve ensuring that children continue to be supported to learn and develop in an environment that meets their needs.
Progress check for two-year-olds
The progress check at age two will not need to be undertaken during the coronavirus period. Once your setting has reopened fully, you should carry out the check on children who are still within the two- to three-year-old range. This will form part of the summative assessment that the Alliance recommends is done for all children, regardless of whether they are returning or have continued to attend as a prioritised place.
In the meantime, practitioners can hold true to the purpose of the progress check by seeking help for any children whose progress and development give them cause for concern.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) has been suspended for 2021. However, schools should use their best endeavours to undertake it. Information shared by your setting in support of a child’s transition to school is still of great value, maybe more
so, as a summative assessment of the child’s experiences and the progress they have made in their learning and development during lockdown is vital information.
Paediatric first aid requirements (3.25) remain in place for children below the age of 24 months. However, if children aged between two- and five-years-old are being cared for, providers must use their “best endeavours” to ensure one person with PFA is onsite when children are present. If this is not possible, providers must carry out a written risk assessment and ensure that someone with a First Aid at Work or emergency PFA certification is on site at all times when children are on the premises. New entrants (L2 and L3) will not need to hold a PFA certificate within their first three months in order to be counted in staff:child ratios.
If a practitioner is unable to review their first aid certificate for reasons directly related to Covid-19, the validity of the current certificate can be extended to 31 March 2021 at the latest. This applies to certficates expiring on or after 1 October 2020.
Providers will need to be confident that where certificates have expired they have plans in place to update them asap once the crisis is over, which may be a challenge as first aid training is not always easy to access and is likely to be oversubscribed once the restrictions are lifted.
The statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets out in Annex A the criteria for effective PFA training. This says that emergency PFA courses should be undertaken face-to-face. PFA training providers are making face-to-face training available during the pandemic and it is permitted in each of the three tiers. Further guidance can be found here.
The government has made available additional guidance to help ensure that the risk of virus spread for both staff and children is as low as possible. Settings that remain open should:
- Tell children, parents, carers or any visitors such as suppliers, not to enter the setting if they are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus.
- Consider how children arrive at the setting and reduce any unnecessary travel on public transport.
- Ensure group sizes reflect the numbers of practitioners available and are kept as small as possible.
- Stagger lunch and snack times to reduce large groups of children.
- Discourage parents from gathering in their lobby/entrance area.
- Try to follow the social distancing guidelines
Social distancing is a difficult concept in an early years setting. You may want to consider:
- Rearranging circle time activities, or working with fewer children so you can space floor cushions/mats 2m apart.
- Changing the layout of your sleep/rest area so that cots or sleep mats are at least 2 metres apart.
- Open out or stop using areas that are usually enclosed i.e. book corner or dens.
- Suspend activities such as sand and water play or cooking that pose a higher risk of cross-contamination.
- In addition to increased hand hygiene, wash children’s hands for at least 20 seconds when they arrive at the setting and before they leave.