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"Contradictory " early years guidance criticised

By Rachel Lawler

The Alliance has criticised the Department for Education (DfE)'s "contradictory" guidance for early years providers as the country moves into "Stage 4" of its Covid-19 'roadmap'.

The need for children to be kept in "small, consistent groups" and for providers to help trace contacts of positive cases ended on 19 July, alongside a loosening of other guidance for early years providers.

However, the changes to rules on self-isolation for children and adults who have been fully-vaccinated are not due to change until 16 August.

The guidance now states that "Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace and education settings will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing".

This has left many providers confused about how to proceed after positive cases in their setting until 16 August with no practice advice given for cases that are identified in the meantime.

No clear explanation
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "The easing of Covid restrictions should have been a positive development for the early years sector. Instead we now have a situation where many providers aren’t sure what the current rules are, how they will work in practice and what exactly they need to be doing to continue keeping themselves, their colleagues and the children in their care safe. 

"The requirement to keep children in small, consistent groups ended on 19 July – and yet changes to self-isolation rules for children and double-vaccinated adults don’t come into effect until 16 August. At the same time, providers have been told that they no longer need to take responsibility for routine tracing at their settings, without any clear explanation of how this will work in practice. 

"Add to this the recent announcement that some critical workers are to be made exempt from self-isolation rules ahead of 16 August, without any real detail on who this will include, and whether it will apply to the early years sector, and it is no wonder that so many practitioners are increasingly confused and concerned about these recent changes.  

"The early years sector has demonstrated remarkable dedication, resilience and professionalism during one of the most challenging periods of living memory – but if they are to be able to continue doing the excellent job they have been doing, they need clear, consistent guidance from the government, and they need it now."

Find out more
Read the guidance in full