Operating during the coronavirus lockdown and beyond

Rainbow chalks

We have produced the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide below to help providers during the pandemic. 

This FAQ page will be regularly updated as we get more information and clarification from the DfE.

The below information is accurate as of 27 January 2022 and is primarily based on:

A printer-friendly version of the FAQ is available for download here.


General

Who is able to operate?

Early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) and wraparound settings can offer provision to all children.

 Parent and child groups can operate as normal without restrictions on attendance.

Are we allowed to charge for parents who choose not to or are unable to take up their childcare place? 

Department for Education guidance states that: “The general principle is that providers should not charge parents or carers for services that cannot be provided. If there is a barrier to accessing childcare, based on government guidance or the law, the provider should not charge the parents or carers for this period.”

The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) additionally previously advised the Alliance that:  “The CMA is unlikely to object to the parties seeking to reach an arrangement that is mutually acceptable in the circumstances, provided that consumers are not left in a worse position where they have sought to find a resolution in this way.” 

Bubbles and attendance

Do we need to keep children in “small groups” or "bubbles"?

No, children no longer need to be in consistent groups, though keeping groups apart may have to be reintroduced in instances of local outbreaks. 

Are children allowed to attend more than one setting?

Yes, there is no need to minimise the number of settings a child attends.

Can children who have underlying health conditions or who live with someone who is vulnerable attend the setting?

DfE guidance states that all children who are clinically extremely vulnerable should attend their setting "unless they are one of the very small number of children under paediatric or other specialist care and have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend".

A child attending the provision has a cough but their GP / 111 / 119 has told their parents that they are fine to attend the setting. Should I / we allow them to attend?

It depends who has given the medical advice. The Department for Education has told the Alliance that: “A GP’s confirmation regarding whether a child has COVID-19 would be valid evidence for deciding on whether a child should attend a setting, however, a telephone helpline would not be able to provide evidence that someone does not have COVID-19.”

Government guidance also states that: “In the event that a parent or carer insists on a child attending the setting, the setting can take the decision to refuse the child if in their reasonable judgement it is necessary to protect their children and staff from possible infection with coronavirus (COVID-19). Any such decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice.”


Staffing

Are members of staff who have underlying health conditions able to work?

Government guidance states that “people previously considered to be particularly vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), and high or higher-risk are not being advised to shield again. If people were previously identified as being in one of these groups, they are advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

"In some circumstances, staff may have received personal advice from their specialist or clinician on additional precautions to take and they should continue to follow that advice. Whilst individual risk assessments are not required, employers are expected to discuss any concerns that people previously considered CEV may have."  

NB: More detailed guidance on who is considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ versus ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ is available here.

Are pregnant staff able to work in settings?

Yes. DfE guidance states that: “Employers will need to follow this specific guidance for pregnant employeesCOVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding contains further advice on vaccination. Your workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers.”

Can staff who live with someone who is vulnerable attend the setting?

Yes. DfE guidance previously stated that: “People who live with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable can attend the workplace.”  

Are we still allowed to use agency staff?

Yes. Previously the DfE guidance stated that: “Supply staff and other temporary workers can move between settings” and there are no limitations on this in the latest version of the guidance.

What happens if a staff member has to self-isolate after returning from abroad?

DfE guidance states: “All children and staff travelling to England must adhere to travel legislation, details of which are set out in travel to England from another country during coronavirus (COVID- 19). All travellers arriving into the UK should isolate and get a PCR test by ‘day two’ after arrival – this will be legally required from 30 November. They may end their isolation once they receive a negative result. If the result is positive, they should continue to isolate and follow rules on isolation following a positive test. 

Are staff allowed to work two jobs?

Current DfE guidance contains no restrictions on the number of settings early years staff are able to work in.

Are early years students still allowed to attend settings for the purposes of student placements? 

Current DfE guidance contains no restrictions on early years placements. 

What do early years practitioners who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace payment and have to self-isolate due to a close contact with a young child attending the setting need to do to apply for the payment?

Staff identified as close contacts of a positive case will require an NHS Test and Trace Account ID number (CTAS number) to be able to claim a Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment. Parents and carers of self-isolating children should be provided with a letter to support their application for payment, but will not require an NHS Test and Trace Account ID number (CTAS number).

The Department for Health and Social Care has launched the self-isolation service hub (020 3743 6715). The phone line is open 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm, allowing a school to provide contact details of any staff who have been asked to self-isolate and are likely to be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment.

In order for any of your staff who may be eligible for a payment from the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme to be able to claim, you must follow these steps.

  1. Ensure that you collate a list of appropriate close contacts for the person who has tested positive within your establishment and inform these close contacts that they now need to self-isolate.
  2. Call the service hub on 020 3743 6715 as soon as you have the 8-digit NHS Test and Trace Account ID (sometimes referred to as a CTAS number) of the person who has tested positive.
  3. Provide the details of the person who has tested positive, along with the details of the relevant staff members you have identified as close contacts. If you do not have NHS Test and Trace Account ID for the person who has tested positive, Hub staff will assist in tracing the person in order to register their contacts on the Test and Trace system (CTAS).
  4. NHS Test and Trace will then contact individuals to formally advise them of their need to self-isolate and provide them with an NHS Test and Trace Account ID.
  5. Following this, individuals who are employed or self-employed, on a low income, unable to work from home and losing income as a result may qualify for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme through their local authority.
Do early years managers have to check if staff have had both vaccines?

The DfE says there is no duty in the regulations on employees to share their vaccine status with employers.

Staff have a duty to tell employers if they are required to self-isolate, if they are due to work at a place other than where they are self-isolating.

If staff are exempt from the duty to self-isolate, they don’t need to inform their employers of this, including if the exemption is due to vaccine status.


Minimising risk of infection transmission

What steps should we take to minimise the risk of infection transmission?

The DfE guidance on protective measures outlines steps providers can take to deal with direct transmission (e.g. via coughing and sneezing) and indirect transmission (e.g. through touching contaminated surfaces). 

The key steps the government says providers should take to reduce the risk of transmitting an infection are: 

1. Ensure good hygiene for everyone

2. Maintain appropriate cleaning regimes, using standard products such as detergents 

3. Keep occupied spaces well ventilated 

4. Follow public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

How often do we need to clean surfaces?

DfE guidance states that: “You should put in place and maintain an appropriate cleaning schedule. This should include regular cleaning of areas and equipment (for example, twice per day) with a particular focus on frequently touched surfaces."

PHE guidance on COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home additionally states that: “As a minimum, frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down twice a day, and one of these should be at the beginning or the end of the working day. Cleaning should be more frequent depending on the number of people using the space, whether they are entering and exiting the setting and access to handwashing and hand-sanitising facilities. Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is particularly important in bathrooms and communal kitchen”.

What is an outbreak management plan and what should a good plan look like? 

The DfE advises that all providers should have contingency plans describing what they would do if children, or staff test positive for COVID-19, or how they would operate if they were advised to reintroduce any measures to help break chains of transmission – sometimes known as outbreak management plans. 

A good plan should cover: 

  • roles and responsibilities
  • when and how to seek public health advice
  • details on the types of control measures you might be asked to put in place 

For each control measure you should include: 

  • actions you would take to put the measure in place quickly
  • how you would ensure every child receives the quantity and quality of early education and childcare to which they are normally entitled 
  • how you would communicate changes to children, parents, carers and staff. 
Do I / we need to wear masks / face coverings at the setting? 

 In line with the wider easing of Covid-19 restrictions, DfE guidance states that: "From 27 January 2022, face coverings should are no longer advised to be worn when moving around the premises, outside of areas where adults are working with children, such as in corridors and communal areas."

However, the guidance also notes that: "A director of public health might advise you that face coverings should temporarily be worn when in communal areas, unless exempt. You should make sure your contingency plans cover this possibility."

Do we need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)?

The government guidance states that: “Most staff in settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. More information on the use of PPE for COVID-19 can be found in use of PPE in education, childcare and children’s social care.”

What do we need to do to keep the setting well-ventilated?

The Actions for Early Years guidance states that good ventilation can be achieved by a variety of measures, including:

— mechanical ventilation systems: these should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible, and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance (if possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air or, if not, then systems should be operated as normal as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply).

— natural ventilation: opening windows, when it is safe to do so. In colder weather, windows should be opened just enough to provide constant background ventilation and periodically opened more fully when it is safe to do so to purge the air in the space

The guidance also states that to balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature, the following measures should also be used as appropriate:

  • opening high level windows in preference to low level to reduce draughts
  • increasing the ventilation while spaces are unoccupied
  • re-arranging furniture where possible to avoid direct draughts.

It adds that “Heating should be used as necessary to ensure comfort levels are maintained, particularly in occupied spaces.”

As of September 2021, nurseries and pre-schools will be given CO2 monitors to identify areas of poor ventilation within settings to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.  

Government guidance on how to use these monitors is available here

Further advice on improving ventilation in areas identified as being poorly ventilated is available in Ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Do I / we need to take children’s temperatures regularly throughout the day?

No, this is not a requirement. The previous DfE guidance stated that: “PHE is clear that routinely taking the temperature of children is not recommended as this is an unreliable method for identifying coronavirus (COVID-19).”

If a child has a temperature following a routine immunisation, can they attend the setting?

Yes, if there is no reason to suspect they have contracted Covid-19. DfE guidance previously stated that: “Vaccines may cause a mild fever in children. This is a common and expected reaction, and isolation is not required unless coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected.

Parents and carers should monitor side effects from a vaccination or teething, and if they are concerned about their child’s health, they should seek advice from their GP or NHS 111.

 If COVID-19 is suspected the child should start isolating and get tested.

Can children take part in messy play?

Yes, restrictions on messy play have been removed from government guidance.

Are parents and carers allowed inside the setting?

Yes, restrictions on parental pick-ups and drop-offs have been removed from government guidance. 

Can early years professionals conduct home visits?

Yes, as of Step 4 restrictions on home visits have been removed from government guidance.


Close contact

If a child or staff member at the setting tests positive, do we have to close the whole room/bubble?

No, not unless advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace. 

As of 14 December 2021, people who have been fully vaccinated (i.e. those who have had two doses of an approved vaccine, with the second dose being received at least two weeks beforehand), and those aged under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case (though they are advised to take a PCR test at their earliest convenience). Instead they are advised to take daily lateral flow tests for seven days.

Close contacts of confirmed positive cases who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for ten days if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. 

Attending an early years setting with an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19 does not necessarily mean a person will be identified as a close contact.

Do we need to keep a record of which children and staff are in close contact with each other?

No, close contacts are now identified via NHS Test and Trace only. Settings may be asked to assist this process, but only in exceptional circumstances, such as in response to an outbreak. 

Being in an early years setting with an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19 will not necessarily mean a person is identified by Test and Trace as a close contact. 

Government guidance states that “Contacts in an educational setting will be traced if the positive case specifically identified an individual as having close contact which will normally have occurred in a social setting e.g. sleepovers.”

The DfE has published further information on contact tracing, including frequently asked questions and answers, and a template letter for settings to send to parents informing them of the changes. These can be accessed here

Can I still refuse to allow a child who is a close contact to attend my setting even if they have not been identified as such by Test and Trace? ​

DfE guidance states that: “In exceptional cases, settings may decide to refuse a pupil if, in the setting's reasonable judgement, it is necessary to protect those within the setting from possible infection with COVID-19 and the need outweighs the likely educational disruption.  

“The decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances, including the significant disruption to education throughout the pandemic and current public health advice.​” 

I am double-vaccinated. If I am identified as a close contact of a positive case , what will I need to do?

As of 14 December 2021, all fully vaccinated adults and children aged between five years and 18 years and six months old who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of any variant of Covid-19 (including Omicron) should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days instead of isolating. 

The results of each lateral flow test should be reported through the Online Reporting System and to their setting. If an individual tests negative, they can continue to attend their education setting.

If they test positive, they should self-isolate in line with government guidance (as announced on 22 December, anyone who tests positive will be able to leave self-isolation seven days after the date of their initial positive test if they receive two negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 6 and 7). As of 11 January, those testing positive on a lateral flow test do not have to take a confirmatory PCR test.  

Children under five years old do not need to take part in daily testing for contacts of COVID-19 and do not need to isolate.

Anyone over the age of 18 years and 6 months who is not fully vaccinated is still required to self-isolate and will be asked to book a PCR test.

An adult is considered fully vaccinated from two weeks after having received two doses of an approved vaccine (such as Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Moderna/Spikevax) or one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

I am not vaccinated / have only had my first jab. If I am identified as a close contact of a positive case what will I need to do?

Staff members who are over 18 years and six months and are not double-vaccinated will still need to self-isolate for the recommended period if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

If a child at the setting is identified as a close contact of a positive case, what will their parent(s) need to do?

As of 14 December, if a child under five years old is identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Covid-19, they do not need to take part in daily testing for contacts of COVID-19 and do not need to isolate.

However, if the close contact is a member of their household, it is recommended that they limit their contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19 and take a PCR test as soon as possible. They do not need to self-isolate while awaiting the results of the PCR test.

A member of staff at my setting has only just turned 18 and hasn’t yet had the chance to have both vaccines. Do they need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact?

No. The government “is giving 18 year olds six months after turning 18 to ensure they have the chance to get vaccinated.” 

If a child at my setting tests positive for Covid, do I need to tell other parents?

Government guidance states that: “Settings should consider whether individuals in their setting (taking account of factors such as known vulnerability) need to be informed of a positive case. When informing individuals of a positive case, the setting should not disclose any information that could result in an individual being identified. Settings may make their own decisions on how they wish to communicate the information.”

Are settings expected to verify which staff have had had both vaccines for the purposes of the rules on self-isolating due to close contact?

The Department for Education has advised the Alliance that “there is no duty in the regulations on employees to share their vaccine status with employers. Employees have a duty to tell employers they are under a requirement to self-isolate, if they are due to work at a place other than where they are self-isolating.  But where they are exempt from the duty to self-isolate, they don’t need to inform employers of this, including if the exemption is due to vaccine status.” 

If a staff member who is not fully vaccinated comes into close contact with a positive Covid case, but is not contacted by NHS Test and Trace, do they need to self-isolate?

UKHSA has confirmed to the Alliance that there is “there is no legal requirement unless you are contacted by NHSTT [NHS Test and Trace]”


Coronavirus - symptoms and testing

Do we still need to conduct lateral flow tests? 

Yes. DfE guidance states: “Staff should continue to test twice weekly at home, with rapid lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.”

What should be done if a child or member of staff starts displaying coronavirus symptoms while at a setting?

The DfE states that: “If anyone in your setting develops COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, you should send them home and they should follow public health advice.

For everyone with symptoms, they should avoid using public transport and, wherever possible, be collected by a member of their family or household. 

If a child is awaiting collection, appropriate PPE should be used if close contact is necessary. Further information on this can be found in use of PPE in education, childcare and children’s social care. A window should be opened for fresh air ventilation if possible. Any rooms they use should be cleaned after they have left.

The household (including any siblings) should follow the UKHSA’s stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.”

What happens if a child or member of staff starts displaying symptoms while not at the setting?

DfE guidance states that: “Children, staff and other adults should follow public health advice on when to self-isolate and what to do. They should not come into the setting if they have symptoms or other reasons requiring them to stay at home due to the risk of them passing on COVID-19 (for example, they are required to quarantine).”

What should I do if a parent/carer does not agree that their child needs to self-isolate after showing symptoms of COVID-19?

The DfE guidance says that in “the vast majority of most cases” providers and parents/carers will be in agreement that a child with symptoms should not attend the setting, given the potential risk to others. 

In the event that a parent or carer insists on a child attending the setting, the DfE says that “you can take the decision to refuse the child if, in your reasonable judgement, it is necessary to protect other children and staff from possible infection with COVID-19”.

It adds that “your decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and current public health advice.”

Parents and carers on low incomes whose children are required to self-isolate may be eligible for the one-off £500 Test and Trace support payment. 

What do I / we do if a child or member of staff tests positive for coronavirus? 

DfE guidance states that staff and children with a positive rapid lateral flow test result should self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance. As announced on 22 December, anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will be able to leave self-isolation seven days after the date of their initial positive test if they receive two negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 6 and 7. As of 11 January, those testing positive on a lateral flow test do not have to take a confirmatory PCR test.  

Do we need to notify Ofsted if a child or member of staff at the setting tests positive for coronavirus?

Yes. DfE guidance states that “You must notify Ofsted, or the childminder agency with which you are registered, of any positive cases in the setting, whether a child or a staff member. You should also tell Ofsted if you have to close the setting as a result. It is a legal requirement as set out in paragraph 3.52 of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework. Report as soon as you are able to, and in any case within 14 days. See tell Ofsted if you have a COVID-19 incident at your childcare business to assure all the information required is included.”

When can a child who has tested positive for Covid-19 return to the setting?

In January 2022, the government announced that individuals testing positive for Covid-19 can now end their self-isolation after 5 full days, rather than 10 days, if they receive negative lateral flow test results on days 5 and 6 of self-isolation.

The DfE has confirmed that this advice applies to “all positive cases”.

The first test must be taken no earlier than day 5 of the self-isolation period with the next test taken the following day.The DfE states that, for example, if an individual “test[s] negative on the morning of day 5 and the morning of day 6, they can return to their education or childcare setting immediately on day 6.”  

Anyone who is unable or chooses not to take lateral flow tests will need to complete the full 10-day period of self-isolation.

Is it true that lateral flow tests don’t work on under-fives or that under-fives shouldn’t take lateral flow tests?

The Department for Education has confirmed to the Alliance that while the latest public health advice from UKHSA suggests that while there are limited public health benefits from any form of regular asymptomatic testing on children aged under 5, and they are not included in the daily testing of Covid-19 contact which individuals to take 7 daily LFD [lateral flow device] tests whilst asymptomatic, “LFD tests work for all ages”.

Where a child aged under 5 years has tested positive for Covid-19, they can take a rapid lateral flow test (LFD) on day 5 and day 6 and be released from self-isolation if both tests are negative. 

The DfE adds: “The use of rapid lateral flow tests in these circumstances is consistent with public health advice and is at the discretion of the parent or carer. It ensures that children aged under 5 who have two negative tests will be able to return to their setting as soon as reasonably possible.”

What happens if someone who has been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for coronavirus starts to display symptoms themselves?

Government guidance states that: “If you are legally required to self-isolate because you are a contact of someone with COVID-19 and you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during your isolation period, stay at home and arrange to have a PCR test.

“As soon as your symptoms start, you and anyone in your household should follow the Stay at home: Guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19. If your test result is positive, you and your household should continue to follow the Stay at home guidance.

“If your test result is negative, then you must still complete the full 10 days of self-isolation, as you could still develop COVID-19. Continue to follow this guidance.

“If someone that you live with develops symptoms during your isolation period, they will need to self-isolate. You and your household should follow the Stay at home guidance.

The definition of a close contact has been clarified in the guidance as;

  • Anyone who lives in the same household as someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation
  • within 1 metre skin-to-skin physical contact for any length of time
  • been within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact or added up together over 1 day)
  • travelled in the same vehicle or a plane

Close contacts will be notified by NHS Test and Trace via text message, email or phone.

 
Do parents need to provide evidence their children have tested negative for coronavirus before their children are allowed to return to a setting following a period of self-isolation?

No. Previous DfE guidance stated that: “Settings should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.”

What happens if someone who lives with a child or staff member at the setting has symptoms of coronavirus?

As of 14 December 2021, all fully vaccinated adults and children aged between five years and 18 years and six months old who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of any variant of Covid-19 (including Omicron) should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days instead of isolating. 

Children under five years old do not need to take part in daily testing for contacts of COVID-19 and do not need to isolate.

Anyone over the age of 18 years and 6 months who is not fully vaccinated is still required to self-isolate and will be asked to book a PCR test.

An adult is considered fully vaccinated from two weeks after having received two doses of an approved vaccine (such as Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Moderna/Spikevax) or one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

What do I / we do if there is a potential outbreak of coronavirus at the setting?

DfE guidance states that you should have outbreak management plans outlining how you would operate if there were an outbreak in your setting or local area. 

Given the detrimental impact that restrictions on education can have on children, any measures in settings should only ever be considered as a last resort, kept to the minimum number of settings or groups possible, and for the shortest amount of time possible.  

Central government may offer local areas of particular concern an enhanced response package to help limit increases in transmission.

If you have several confirmed cases within 14 days, you may have an outbreak. 

In the event of an outbreak, you should call the dedicated advice service who will escalate the issue to your local health protection team where necessary and advise if any additional action is required, such as implementing elements of your outbreak management plan. You can reach them by calling the DfE helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting option 1 for advice on the action to take in response to a positive case. 

Can a child or early years worker who displays Covid symptoms attend an early years setting if they can have daily lateral tests? 

No. The guidance remains that the child or staff member must isolate if they have Covid symptoms and await a test result and only resume attendance if the test is negative – if it is positive, they must isolate. There has, to date, been no change to this guidance. 

Do staff who have already had Covid still have to isolate if they have had close contact with a positive case?  

As of 14 December 2021, all fully vaccinated adults and children aged between five years and 18 years and six months old who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of any variant of Covid-19 (including Omicron) can take a lateral flow test every day for seven days instead of isolating. 

Anyone over the age of 18 years and 6 months who is not fully vaccinated is still required to self-isolate and will be asked to book a PCR test, even if they have already had Covid.

Are there any plans to update the official Covid-19 symptoms for children, given numerous reports of children testing positive who don't present with the main three symptoms, but do present consistently with other symptoms such as diarrhoea and/or vomiting? 

The DfE has confirmed there are no plans at present to do this. 


Childminders

I am a childminder. Am I still allowed to look after school-age children as well as early years children?

Yes.

I am a childminder. Am I still allowed to drop-off and pick-up children from other settings?

Yes. Restrictions on childminder drop-off and pick-ups have been removed from government guidance.

Can I meet up with other childminders? 

Yes. Limitations on childminder meet ups have been removed from government guidance.

Can childminders attend parent and toddler groups and / or childminder drop-in groups? 

As of Step 4, all limitations on meetings indoors or outdoors have been removed. As such,  Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak no longer contains restrictions on parent and toddler groups.

If a child attending a childminding setting is advised that someone in their class at school or room at nursery has tested positive for coronavirus, can they still attend?

As of 14 December 2021, all fully vaccinated adults and children aged between five years and 18 years and six months old who have been identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of any variant of Covid-19 (including Omicron) can take a lateral flow test every day for seven days instead of isolating. 

Children under five years old do not need to take part in daily testing for contacts of COVID-19 and do not need to isolate.

If a childminder has tested positive for Covid-19, but receives two negative lateral flow test results on day 5 and 6 of isolation, when can they reopen their setting?

The Department for Education has confirmed to the Alliance that a childminder who has tested positive for Covid-19 can reopen their provision immediately if they have received negative lateral flow test results on day 5 and 6 of self-isolation, as long as the childminder does not have a high temperature, in line with wider government guidance.

If someone in my household tests positive or is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, and has to isolate, but I am fully vaccinated, am I still able to care for children at my home? 

No. When someone living in your home has any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, or a positive test, you cannot care for children in your home. You cannot childmind children in your home until everyone living with you who has symptoms, or a positive test, has finished self-isolating.

You should follow the guidance stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Why can children come to my house when there is a Covid-19 case in their house but not when there is a case in mine?

Government guidance states: “When someone in a childminder’s household has any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, or a positive test, the childminder cannot care for children in their home. This is because there is a higher risk of transmission to those attending the provision for childcare as they are in close proximity of the case and for extended periods of time.

“The same principle applies to children (and adults) who must stay at home and not receive visitors into the home when they test positive or have symptoms. They can pass the infection to others, even if they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, which is why they must stay at home.”

What are my options when I cannot childmind in my home?

DfE guidance states: “You may wish to consider the following options, to continue childminding as long as you are not personally required to self-isolate. You should discuss and agree any option you might choose with parents and carers well in advance of such an event and check you have adequate public liability insurance for the temporary change, and follow the additional actions to take when someone you live with is self-isolating.”

Another registered domestic premises: “If you want to work from another registered domestic premises,  such as another childminder’s home, you should tell Ofsted or let your Childminder Agency (CMA) know before you start. To notify Ofsted, please contact enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk from an email address that is known to them. You should also notify Ofsted or your CMA if you intend to care for a child at the child’s own home. You do not need to wait for an updated certificate to start working, but you must be able to demonstrate to parents or carers that you are registered with Ofsted and awaiting a new certificate. More information about childminder registration is available.”

Unregistered domestic premises: “If you want to work from another domestic premises which is not already registered, such as a relative’s home, you should tell Ofsted or let your CMA know before you start. This should only be considered if a longer-term option is required because any new

people aged 16 or over who live and work on the premises where childminding will take place will have to be suitability checked, which includes the requirement to apply for a DBS certificate for each new person, and at cost to the childminder. You can tell Ofsted about new people using their online service. If you are registered with a CMA, contact them for more information.”

Non-domestic premises: “You can childmind from non-domestic premises for up to 50% of your time. If you are registered with Ofsted, you must complete an application form and be approved before starting. If you are registered with a CMA, contact them for more information.”

Public places: “You can continue to childmind if, for example, you were to collect children from school and take them to their parent or carer without taking them into your home. This could include an activity along the way, such as a visit to the park.”

Outbuildings and gardens: “If you are one of the very small number of childminders who have a suitable outbuilding/extension and garden within the boundary of your registered address, you may be able to childmind if you meet all the following requirements:

  • the outbuilding/extension has its own entrance/exit and you don’t have to enter your home to access it; doesn’t have direct access to the main house; is not being used by the person who is self-isolatin
  • you can continue to deliver the statutory requirements of the early years foundation stage framework including the environment being safe and suitable for the children and does not compromise safeguarding, their welfare or their individual needs, and having access to a toilet and washing facilities and (where appropriate) adequate sleeping facilities - all of which are separate to those being used by the person self-isolating
  • you discuss your arrangements with Ofsted before you start
  • you follow the additional actions to take when someone you live with is self-isolating
Can a childminder continue to provide a service from their home if a household member is self-isolating due to close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 (e.g. if they are over 18 and not fully vaccinated)?

The Department for Education has advised that “you can continue to childmind in your home

if the person is self-isolating because they are a close-contact and not exempt from self-isolation and all the following apply:

  • the person self-isolating does not have any of the main symptoms of Covid-19 or a positive test
     
  • the person self-isolating does not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting - for example, the person self-isolating must use a separate bathroom where possible. If the person self-isolating has to use a shared bathroom or other communal areas, these must be thoroughly cleaned after every use

The guidance adds that: 

  1. You should make every effort to notify parents and carers of the children attending the setting, and any assistants, about the self-isolation, as soon as reasonably possible and maintain open communication with them throughout the period of self- isolation.
     
  2. You must comply with health and safety law by reviewing your risk assessment. The risk assessment must demonstrate: 

    -  that the provision of childcare in your setting is safe
    -  how it aligns with the control measures 
    -  how you will put into place any additional but proportionate measures
     

  3. You should have arrangements in place to monitor whether the measures you have put in place are:

    -  effective
    -  working as planned
    -  reviewed frequently and updated appropriately (for example when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice)

  4. You must report positive cases to Ofsted or your childminding agency. 

 

Are childminders and other early years providers permitted to take children on outings using their cars?  

Government guidance states that provider can take children on educational day visits, but that “any educational day visits must be conducted in line with relevant COVID-19 guidance and regulations in place at the time. 

There are currently no restrictions on gathering indoors or outdoors. 


Baby and toddler groups

Are there any restrictions on how baby and toddler groups can operate?

No, parents and toddler groups can operate as normal without restrictions on attendance.  

The DfE has confirmed that groups organised by a “charitable institution” includes charities that are not required to be registered.  

Are there any restrictions on singing in baby and toddler groups?  

There are no restrictions on the number of people who can singing indoors or outdoors. The DfE note that some activities can increase the risk of catching or passing on Covid-19 including any activities that generate more droplets as they breathe heavily, such as singing, dancing, exercising or raising their voices. The risk is greatest where these factors overlap, for example in crowded indoor spaces. In these situations, you should be particularly careful to follow the guidance on keeping yourself and others safe

 

Out-of-school clubs

I run an out-of-school club. What are the rules on how I am able to operate?

Wraparound providers are able to offer wraparound childcare for all children.

Are children required to socially distance at out-of-school settings?

No, all social distancing requirements have now been removed from government guidance.

I run an out-of school music club. How do I minimise the risk of transmission?

There are no restrictions on music clubs and activities, either inside or outside.  

However, the DfE notes activities which generate more droplets as people breathe heavily (which includes singing and playing wind or brass instruments) can increase the risk of transmission - especially where these factors overlap, for example in crowded indoor spaces. In these situations, you are advised to follow the guidance on keeping yourself and others safe

The previous specific measures such as social distancing, positioning back-to-back, or limiting the number of participants or volume are no longer included in the guidance. However, the DfE suggests you may still wish to refer to guidance on keeping yourself and others safe, which advises continuing to take precautions e.g. additional ventilation. 

If you are planning an indoor or outdoor face-to-face performance in front of a live audience, you should follow the latest advice in the DCMS guidance, working safely during COVID-19 in the performing arts

Can children who are clinically extremely vulnerable attend out-of-school clubs?

Guidance states: “Following expert clinical advice and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, people previously considered to be particularly vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), and high or higher-risk are not being advised to shield again. If staff were previously identified as being in one of these groups, they are advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.”


Operational 

Are we allowed to take children out on trips to the park and other public spaces?

Yes, restrictions on trips to outdoor spaces have been removed from government guidance.

Can we take trips to indoor spaces? 

Yes, restrictions on trips to indoor spaces have been removed from government guidance.

Can I / we have other visitors, such as contractors, to the setting?

Yes, restrictions on visitors to settings have been removed from government guidance. 

Can we have volunteers at the setting?

Yes, restrictions on volunteers at settings have been removed from government guidance. 

Can we conduct in-person job interviews at the setting?

Yes, restrictions on recruitment practices have been removed from government guidance. 

Do temporary changes to the EYFS still apply?

In light of the significant pressures that the Omicron variant is placing on early years settings – in particular, the huge rise in staff absences – the Department for Education has now confirmed that it considers Covid-19 to be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ on which basis the ratio requirements in the EYFS can temporarily be changed.

This is not a change to early years guidance. There is already a provision in the EYFS (paragraph 3.31) for exceptions to ratios to be made in exceptional circumstances – it states: "Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made." The update is that the government has now confirmed Covid-19 is considered to be an exceptional circumstance.

The DfE has stated: "It remains a priority to continue providing face to face education and childcare, but we know that Covid-19 continues to put early years settings under significant pressure, particularly in relation to workforce absence.

"Government considers Covid-19 to be an exceptional circumstance in which the staff-to-child ratios set out in the EYFS can temporarily be changed if necessary, for example to respond to Covid-related workforce absences. This relates to paragraph 3.31 in the EYFS.

"In some cases, providers may choose to respond to staff and child absences by temporarily mixing age groups of children who would otherwise be educated or cared for separately. Ratios should be guided by all relevant requirements and by the needs of individual children within the group. For the purposes of meeting EYFS ratio and qualification requirements, all staff educating or caring for a mixed age group of children can be considered ‘available to work directly with’ all the children who have been grouped together.

"In all circumstances, settings remain responsible for maintaining the quality of care, safety and security of children."

Are we still expected to complete the two-year-old progress check? 

If a provider is subject to any national or local Covid-related restrictions which affect their ability to comply with the EYFS, then DfE guidance states that “there is no requirement for providers to undertake this check, but providers should still remain alert to any emerging concerns about any child in their care, and endeavour to provide or seek additional support if needed”.

The guidance adds that “It is expected that the checks will take place as soon as is practical once the child returns to, or joins, the early years setting, including where a child has turned 3 if it is considered appropriate and useful in the provider’s professional judgement and in discussion with the child’s parents or carers.”.

Are Ofsted still carrying out early years inspections?

Ofsted has confirmed that inspections have not been suspended and that they will “continue to prioritise places where we have concerns, returning to inadequate and requires improvement providers, those we didn’t see in the last cycle and those newly registered and not yet seen”. Their registration and approvals work will also continue. However, Ofsted has also said that, as they are not currently asking Ofsted inspectors who are serving practitioners to undertake inspections, this will naturally scale back their activity. 

In addition, Ofsted are encouraging anyone that feels unable to go ahead with a planned inspection to let them know at the point when they are notified about the inspection. Ofsted has confirmed that they will check on the notification call whether a setting feels that it can go ahead with the inspection and that if the setting requests a deferral, that they would look at that request "favourably and sensitively”, unless they have urgent safeguarding concerns.  

Ofsted’s formal deferral policy is available here.

If our setting doesn’t have enough staff to open to all children, how should we prioritise places?

DfE guidance confirms that if high levels of workforce absence mean that an early years setting needs to restrict attendance, priority should be given to 1) children of critical workers, and vulnerable children (NB: the guidance notes that some children may be vulnerable who are not officially in statutory systems and that you should seek to support any children who you believe may have challenging circumstances at home); then 2) three- and four-year-olds, in particular those who will be transitioning to reception; and then 3) younger age groups.

Are we allowed to continue our toothbrushing programme?

Yes, but you must use a dry brushing method.  

The DfE guidance states: “The wet brushing model is no longert recommended during the COVID-19 recovery phase because as it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry toothbrushing.” 

Guidance on supervised toothbrushing schemes is available here

My setting is reopening after being closed. How can I reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease?

The Health and Safety Executive has guidance available on this here.

How should early years staff use the NHS Covid-19 App? 

Government guidance states that education and childcare setting leaders and staff should familiarise themselves with the features of the app, and advises that pausing the contact tracing function on the app is recommended “when an individual is not able to have their phone with them, for example because it is stored in a locker or communal area” to avoid the app picking up contacts when the individual is not with their phone.

If the contact tracing function is accidentally left on, and a staff member receives a notificiation advising them to self-isolate, then the DfE advises that you "should always follow advise to self-isolate" even if you think it may be a false notification, as you cannot be sure when contact was made.

Guidance on the use of the NHS Covid-19 app in education and childcare settings is available here

Our setting is facing huge staffing shortages due to Covid-19. Can we defer our Ofsted inspection?

Ofsted have confirmed that inspections have not been suspended and that they will “continue to prioritise places where we have concerns, returning to inadequate and requires improvement providers, those we didn’t see in the last cycle and those newly registered and not yet seen”. Their registration and approvals work will also continue. However, Ofsted has also said that, as they are not currently asking Ofsted inspectors who are serving practitioners to undertake inspections, this will naturally scale back their activity. 

In addition, Ofsted are encouraging anyone that feels unable to go ahead with a planned inspection to let them know at the point when they are notified about the inspection. Ofsted has confirmed that they will check on the notification call whether a setting feels that it can go ahead with the inspection and that if the setting requests a deferral, that they would look at that request "favourably and sensitively”, unless they have urgent safeguarding concerns.  

Ofsted’s formal deferral policy is available here.

 

 

   Learn more about Alliance membershipBecome an Alliance member Contact us