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 30 November 2020 and is primarily based on:

Click here to download these FAQs as a PDF.


After the November lockdown

Who is allowed to currently operate?

From 2 December onwards

Registered early years providers can operate as normal (i.e. in line with the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance) from 2 December.

Before-, after- and holiday clubs can also operate as normal (i.e. in line with the Protective measures for holiday and after-school clubs, and other out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance) from 2 December.

Baby and toddler groups can operate from 2 December, as long as they are “organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, or a public body, and limited to no more than 15 participants excluding children aged under 5”. Further guidance for baby and toddler groups is now available in section 5.7 of the Actions for Early Years guidance.

Between 5 November and 2 December

Registered early years providers:  The government has confirmed that all registered early years providers, including childminders, are allowed to continue operating as of Thursday 5 November.  

Wraparound care:  Providers of wraparound care for school-aged children can also continue to operate - however, the government guidance ​ on  national lockdown  states that this should be  "where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work, or for the purposes of respite care"  (NB: this additional condition only applies to school-aged childcare provided by wraparound care providers, not apply to registered early years provision). 

Parent and child groups (including baby & toddler groups): The government has confirmed these groups can continue where they provide support to parents and/or children, and that children under 5 will not be counted within the 15 person limit.

Updated guidance can be found here (under section 3).

The DfE has advised the Alliance that such support could include educational activities provided to children but should be limited to activities where it is ‘reasonably necessary’ for them take place in person (i.e. it is not possible to provide the service in another format such as via Zoom). All activities must be delivered by a business, voluntary provider or private body, and should not take place in anyone’s private home.

Children’s centres: The DfE has confirmed that children's centres can continue to operate for the purposes set out in the exemptions to the new national restrictions. 

Bubbles and attendance

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

Registered early years providers are no longer required to keep children in these small groups within settings, including during the November lockdown. The Department for Education says this is because “the overall risk to children from coronavirus (COVID-19) is low” and “early years settings are typically much smaller than schools”.

DfE guidance states that: “Providers should still consider how they can minimise mixing within settings, for example where they use different rooms for different age groups, keeping those groups apart as much as possible.”

All other protective measures must remain in place.

The guidance also states that: “While in general groups should be kept apart, brief, transitory contact, such as passing in a corridor or when moving to a different part of the setting, is low risk."

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

New DfE guidance states that during November lockdown, out-of-school clubs can only operate where the service they offer is “reasonably necessary” to enable parents to work or search for work; undertake training or education; or for the purposes of respite care, including for vulnerable children.

It also states that: “These settings should continue to undertake risk assessments and implement the system of controls set out in the protective measures for holiday clubs and after-school clubs and other out-of-school clubs for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance.

This guidance states that out-of-school providers only caring for children under the age of five are not required to keep children in ‘bubbles’ or small groups, in line with general guidance for early years settings.

Out-of-school providers only caring for children over the age of five “should seek to maintain small, consistent groups of no more than 15 children and at least one staff member”. It adds that “where it is possible to do so, providers should 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”.

For providers who are caring for a mix of children aged over and under five, the guidance advises that if you could consider keeping the older children in bubbles, but not the young children, if it is possible to do so.

If it isn’t possible because if you have mixed age groups together, then the guidance states that “you will need to, as far as possible, keep all children irrespective of age in small consistent groups of no more than 15 with at least one staff member, or with more staff members to meet relevant ratio requirements”.

Are children allowed to attend more than one setting?

Yes, although this should be avoided where possible, including in the November lockdown. The DfE guidance says: “Parents and carers should be encouraged to limit the number of settings their child attends, ideally ensuring their child only attends the same setting consistently.”

The guidance adds that children may need to attend more than one setting, for example, children attending a childminder before their nursery opens so that their parent or carer may go to work.

It says: “Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘systems of controls’ collaboratively, to address any risks identified and allowing them to jointly deliver appropriate care for the child.”

***We are awaiting an update on whether this guidance will be amended during the November national lockdown.*** 

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

DfE guidance states that children who remain in the clinically extremely vulnerable group is that they should return to settings as of 2 December at all local restriction tiers “unless they are one of the very small number of children under paediatric or NHS care (such as recent transplant or very immunosuppressed children) and have been advised specifically by their GP or clinician not to attend an education or childcare setting”.

It adds that: “The government may reintroduce more restrictive formal measures for the clinically extremely vulnerable in the worst affected areas, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer” but that “this will only apply to some tier 3: very high alert local restriction areas, and the government will write to families separately to inform them if clinically extremely vulnerable children are advised to shield and not attend settings”.

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.”

The 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?

The government is advising that those who are clinically vulnerable can attend work but "should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise contacts with others" and "should continue to wash hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in homes and/or workspaces". 

During the November lockdown, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend work if they cannot work from home. 

All other staff should continue to attend work, including those living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

From 2 December, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals can go to work where it is not possible to work from home.

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, pregnant staff are classed as clinically vulnerable and can continue to attend early years settings, though while in settings they should follow the sector-specific measures in the Actions for Early Years guidance to minimise the risks of transmission.

This guidance now also advises that “all pregnant women should take particular care to practise frequent, thorough hand washing, and cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home and/or workspace.”

It adds that: “An employer’s workplace risk assessment should consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers (for example, from working conditions, or the use of physical, chemical or biological agents). Any risks identified must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment.”

If a setting is notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or has given birth within the last 6 months, the employer should “check the workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. If risks are identified during the pregnancy, in the first 6 months after birth or while the employee is still breastfeeding, the employer must take appropriate, sensible action to reduce, remove or control them”.

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

Yes. DfE guidance states 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. The DfE guidance states that: “Supply staff and other temporary workers can move between settings but setting leaders will want to consider how to minimise the number of visitors to the setting where possible.”

It adds that such staff should take particular care to maintain distance from other staff, and that “to minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the setting and secure best value, settings may wish to use longer assignments with supply staff and agree a minimum number of hours across the year”.

The presence of any additional members of staff “should be agreed on a weekly rather than a daily basis, where possible, in order to limit contacts”.

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

DfE guidance states: “It is recommended that setting leaders discuss leave arrangements with staff to inform workforce planning.

“There is a risk that where staff travel abroad, their return travel arrangements could be disrupted due to factors arising beyond their control in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19), such as the potential for restrictions on travel in the place they are visiting.

“Where it is not possible to avoid a member of staff having to self-isolate when they are due to return from leave, settings should consider if it is possible to temporarily amend working arrangements to enable them to work from home.”

Are staff allowed to work two jobs, and if so, do they need to change clothing in between?

The DfE guidance says: “Parents and carers should be encouraged to limit the number of settings their child attends, ideally ensuring their child only attends the same setting consistently. This should also be the same for staff.”

Where staff do attend more than one setting, the DfE has confirmed to the Alliance that changes of clothes is “something for individual settings to considering and to include in their risk assessment”. The Department added that “There is no need for anything other than normal personal hygiene and washing of clothes following a day in a childcare setting.”

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

The Department for Education has told us that the decision on allowing students to attend work placements rests with employers, who are responsible for meeting the safe working and other requirements. 

They stated that: “We recognise that there are likely to be challenges for the training and assessment of EYE and EYP qualifications in 2020/21 academic year due to COVID-19. We have worked with awarding organisations to agree that for level 3 EYE and  level 2 EYP training and qualifications:

 Placement hours will be managed pragmatically with the overarching consideration being that the EYE criteria or EYP criteria, as appropriate, have been met during the learners time on the programme

In order to ensure the EYE or EYP criteria have been met, internal assessments may be adapted; appropriate alternative assessment methods will be evidenced i.e. direct observation where possible or professional discussion, witness testimony, etc.”


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:

  • minimising contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend settings
  • cleaning hands thoroughly more often than usual
  • ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
  • introducing enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
  • minimising contact between groups (for example, children of different age groups who are in different rooms) where possible
  • where necessary, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) – this is when either where an individual child has become ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at a setting and a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained; or where a child already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE, in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.
  • Keep occupied spaces well ventilated.

The DfE guidance says: “Some children with complex needs will struggle to maintain as good respiratory hygiene as their peers, for example those who spit uncontrollably or use saliva as a sensory stimulant. This should be considered in risk assessments in order to support these children and the staff working with them It is not a reason to deny these children a place at the setting.”

Do I / we need to wear masks / face coverings at the setting? 

While the government is not recommending the use of face coverings in early years settings, providers “have the discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults on site, both staff and visitors” in communal spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain. 

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

The government guidance states that: “Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended” and that: “Schools and other education or childcare settings should … not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings.”

It adds that: “Children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way”.

The guidance also states that if a child develops coronavirus symptoms while at a setting, a “fluid-resistant surgical face mask should be worn by the supervising adult” and that “disposable gloves, a disposable apron and a fluid-resistant surgical face mask should be worn” during any contact with the symptomatic child.

It adds that: “If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn.”

With regard to obtaining PPE, the guidance states that: “Education, childcare and children’s social care settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE”, and that: “Where this is not possible, and there is unmet urgent need for PPE in order to operate safely, they may approach their nearest local resilience forum.”

Resilience forums are partnerships made up of representatives from local public services such as local authorities, the emergency services and the NHS.

More information, including regional contact details, are available here.

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.”

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

No, this is not a requirement. The DfE guidance states: “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 or due to teething, can they attend the setting?

IYes, if there is no reason to suspect they have contracted Covid-19. DfE guidance states that: “Vaccines and teething 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected, settings should follow the advice in the ‘system of controls’.”

Can children take part in messy play?

Yes, depending on what materials are used. DfE guidance states that: “Settings should risk assess activities that involve malleable materials for messy play such as sand, mud and water, as part of their regular curriculum planning.”

It adds that a risk assessment should consider whether:

  • materials can be handled by a small, consistent group of children of no more than 15 at a time, and that no one else outside this group can come into contact with it
  • the malleable material for messy play (for example, sand/water/mud) can be used and cleaned - including being replaced - in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, where applicable. 

Provider should also ensure that:

  • children wash their hands thoroughly before and after messy play
  • frequently touched surfaces, equipment, tools and resources for messy play are thoroughly cleaned and dried before they are used by a different group.
Are parents and carers allowed inside the setting?

From 2 December

DfE guidance states that: “there will be occasions when visits to the setting are necessary, but settings are encouraged to avoid visitors entering their premises, wherever possible”.

For new admissions, the guidance advises settings to consider providing virtual tours for prospective parents and carers, but that if parents and carers are keen to visit in person, settings should consider:

  • ensuring face coverings are worn if required in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting (see section 3 on face coverings)
  • there is regular handwashing, especially before and after the visit
  • holding visits after hours. If this is not possible, consider limiting visits to the outside play areas during regular hours, and ensure strict social distancing is observed.

For settling-in visits, guidance states that “parents and carers are able to enter a setting to help their children adapt to their new environment”.

It adds that: “Settings should ensure that parents and carers:

  • wear face coverings, if required, in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting
  • stay for a limited amount of time (ideally not more than an hour)
  • avoid close contact with other children
  • are aware of the ‘system of controls’, how this impacts them, and their responsibilities in supporting it when visiting a setting with their child.

Between 5 November and 2 December

Parents should only enter setting premises if absolutely necessary during the November lockdown period.

DfE lockdown guidance states that settings should restrict all visits to settings to those that are absolutely necessary during this period, adivisng that: “In-person visits from parents can take place if they are absolutely necessary” but adding that “settings should work with parents to ensure parents still have visibility of the childcare environment during this time, including through use of remote visits, pictures and phone calls.”

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

The Department for Education recommends that settings keep a record of:

  • children and staff in specific groups/rooms (where applicable)
  • close contact that takes places between children and staff in different groups/rooms.

However, it states that “this should be a proportionate recording process” and that “settings do not need to ask staff to keep definitive records in a way that is overly burdensome”.

Can early years professionals conduct home visits?

The Department for Education recommends that “visits are done remotely and only face to face where necessary” but states that “visits can still take place for vulnerable children to meet a social, worker, key worker or other necessary support on site”.


Coronavirus - symptoms and testing

Can early years staff get tested for coronavirus?

Yes, as key workers any early years staff who are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 can access priority-testing for free. More information is available here.

However, we know that many providers have experienced significant difficulties accessing tests and are currently raising this as a matter of urgency with the government.

 
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 becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms – a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change to, sense of smell or taste – in an education or childcare setting, “they must be sent home”, and advised to follow government guidance (i.e. to self-isolate for ten days, while all members of their household self-isolate for 14 days).

If it is a child who has fallen ill, the guidance states that they should be moved to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door with appropriate adult supervision while awaiting collection. The guidance adds that: “Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation”. If moving to a separate room is not possible, the child should be moved to an area at least two metres away from other people.

The guidance also states that: “PPE should be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained (such as for a very young child or a child with complex needs).”

If a member of staff has helped an unwell child, the guidance states that they should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds afterwards, but that they are not required to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves or the child subsequently tests positive for coronavirus. If the member of staff does develop symptoms, they are able to access a free coronavirus test – more information on this is available here.

The guidance adds that: “Cleaning the affected area with normal household disinfectant after someone with symptoms has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.”

If a child or staff member is seriously ill, 999 should be called.

Step-by-step government guidance on what to do to manage a possible outbreak is available here.

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

DfE guidance states that settings must ensure that staff members and parents/carers understand that they will need to be ready and willing to:

  • book a test if they (or their child in the case of parents and carers) are displaying symptoms. The guidance states that “All children can be tested, including children under 5, but children under 11 will need to be helped by their parents if using a home testing kit”.
  • provide details of anyone they have been in close contact with if they were to test positive for coronavirus or if asked by NHS Test and Trace
  • self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus symptoms or someone who tests positive for coronavirus.
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 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 “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).” 

The DfE adds: “Any such decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice.”

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

DfE guidance states that anyone who tests positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for at least ten days from the onset of their symptoms and can return to the setting

If they still have a high temperature after ten days, they should keep self-isolating until their temperature returns to normal. If they have a cough or loss of sense of smell or taste after ten days, they can still return to the setting (this is because a cough or anosmia can last for several weeks once the infection has gone). Other members of their household should continue self-isolating for the full 14 days.

If providers become aware that someone who has attended the setting has tested positive for coronavirus, they 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.

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 “Any confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the setting (either child or staff member), and/or if the setting is advised to close as a result, should be swiftly reported to Ofsted through the usual notification channels.”

Ofsted has now created a page for providers who need to report a Covid-19 incident at their setting.

Visit the page.

If staff or children at the setting have been in contact with someone else at the setting who has tested positive for coronavirus and told to self-isolate, do their household members have to self-isolate as well?

No. DfE guidance states that: “Household members of those who are sent home do not need to self-isolate themselves unless the child or staff member who is self-isolating subsequently develops symptoms.”

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

DfE guidance states that if someone in a group that has been asked to self-isolate develops symptoms themselves within their 14-day isolation period, they should get a test.

If the test is negative, they “must remain in isolation for the remainder of the 14-day isolation period. This is because they could still develop the coronavirus (COVID-19) within the remaining days”.

If the test result is positive, “they should inform their setting immediately, and must isolate for at least ten days from the onset of their symptoms (which could mean the self-isolation ends before or after the original 14-day isolation period). Their household should self-isolate for at least 14 days from when they first displayed symptoms”.

Do parents need to provide evidence that their children have tested negative for coronavirus before their children are allowed to return to a setting if they have been self-isolating?

No. DfE guidance states 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?

If someone who lives with a child or staff member at your setting becomes ill with suspected Covid-19, the child or staff member in question will need to isolate for 14 days from when the first person in their home started experiencing symptoms and follow government Stay at Home guidance, available here.

If the house member has not had contact with the setting themselves, and you are not contacted by NHS Test and Trace, then you do not need to take further action, unless the child or staff member who attends your setting has a positive test result themselves (see ‘What do I / we do if a child or member of staff tests positive for coronavirus?’)

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

DfE guidance states that “If settings have two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or an overall rise in sickness absence where coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected, settings may have an outbreak, and continue to work with their local health protection team who will be able to advise if additional action is required”.

It adds that “in some cases, health protection teams may recommend that a larger number of other children self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole site or a group”, but that if settings are implementing protective measures, “whole setting closure based on cases within the setting will not generally be necessary, and should not be considered except on the advice of health protection teams”.

Further guidance is available here.


Childminders

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

Yes. The Department for Education guidance on reopening states that: “From 1 June 2020, childminders can look after children of all ages, in line with usual limits on the number of children they can care for.” However, we are still awaiting clarity from the DfE on the guidance around the mixing of children who are actually attending school with early-years aged children.

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

Yes, including in the November lockdown. The DfE guidance states that: “If it is necessary for a childminder to pick up or drop off a child at school, walking is preferable. If this is not practicable, then a private vehicle for single household use is preferable. Use of public transport should be minimised.”

If a child attending a childminding setting is sent home because someone in their class at school or room at nursery has tested positive for coronavirus, other than that child self-isolating, does the childminder have to take any action?

No. The government has confirmed that no action would be necessary "unless the child themselves became symptomatic or they were contacted by Test and Trace".

If a childminder’s own child is self-isolating (without symptoms but because a class member has tested positive), can the childminder still provide a service from their home?

The Department for Education has advised that: “If the person isolating as a result of coming into contact with a positive case is not showing symptoms of coronavirus and does not require a test, childminders can continue to provide childcare at their registered setting. Settings should ensure they keep open communication with parents and carers of children attending the setting.

“The person isolating must not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting. For example, the person isolating must use a separate bathroom where possible. If the person isolating has to use a shared bathroom or other communal areas, these must be thoroughly cleaned after every use."

DfE guidance states that childminders must:

  • comply with health and safety law, which requires a risk assessment. The risk assessment must demonstrate that the provision of childcare in their setting is safe and aligns with the ‘system of controls’. Further guidance on cleaning can be found in COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
  • put in place proportionate control measures. For more information on what is required of employers in relation to health and safety risk assessments, please see annex A of the guidance for full opening: schools

It adds that childminders should:

  • thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessment. 
  • have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are effective, working as planned, and updated appropriately. For example, when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice. 

If a member of the childminder’s household has themselves tested positive for Covid-19, the childminder cannot care for children in their home because all household members must self-isolate.

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

As it stands yes, if it can be done safely. The Department for Education has confirmed to the Alliance that: “When deciding whether to take children on outings and using their cars, settings (including childminders) must comply with health and safety law, which requires them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures.  

“Setting leaders (such as childminders) will be best placed to understand the needs of their settings and communities, and to make informed judgments about how to balance delivering high quality care and education with the measures needed to manage risk.  

“The guidance on private cars and other vehicles provides some useful information about how to travel in cars safely. Elements of this guidance can be applied when childminders need to travel with children by car.” 

Am I allowed to meet up with other childminders outdoors?

During the November lockdown, childminders are permitted to meet up in outdoor settings (two adult individuals only from two different households) where ALL children are under the age of five.  

As children over the age of 5 are counted in the limit on two people meeting outside, childminders will not be able to meet other childminders if accompanied by children over the age of 5. 


Baby and toddler groups

I am based in a tier 3 area. Can I operate?

Yes. Government guidance states that: ‘Parent and child groups that meet in Ofsted registered settings can operate in all local restriction tiers. Groups meeting in community spaces, such as in a place of worship, community centre or library, can operate in all local restriction tiers and should follow COVID secure guidance for the venue.”

What steps are baby and toddler groups advised to take to minimise the risk of transmission?

DfE guidance states that groups should follow the system of controls in the Actions for Early Years guidance to help mitigate the risks of Covid-19 for children and adults attending the group.

It adds that group participants should maintain “social distancing between adults who do not live together and who are not in the same bubble” and “good hand hygiene” with participants cleaning their hands as they arrive and as they leave.

The guidance also states that group leaders should ensure:

  • a risk assessment is completed prior to groups and activities taking place
  • groups and activities take place separately to areas being used at the same time by registered children attending an Ofsted registered setting
  • the areas used are well ventilated
  • any rooms used by these groups are cleaned after each use
  • a record of all visitors to the setting is kept.
I run a baby and toddler group. Do I need to create a QR code? 

I run a baby and toddler group. Do I need to create a QR code? 

Government advice says you should create and display a QR code if you are:

  • a business 
  • or community organisation with a physical location that is open to the public an event which is taking place in a physical location.
  • By creating a QR code for your venue - using the NHS COVID-19 app - and getting visitors to scan it when they arrive, helps to trace and stop the spread of the virus. 

Visit this page to set up a QR code. 

If you have more than one venue, you need to create a separate QR code for each location.  


Out-of-school clubs

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

New DfE guidance states that during November lockdown, out-of-school clubs can only operate where the service they offer is “reasonably necessary” to enable parents to work or search for work; undertake training or education; or for the purposes of respite care, including for vulnerable children.

It also states that: “These settings should continue to undertake risk assessments and implement the system of controls set out in the protective measures for holiday clubs and after-school clubs and other out-of-school clubs for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance.

This guidance states that out-of-school providers only caring for children under the age of five are not required to keep children in ‘bubbles’ or small groups, in line with general guidance for early years settings.

Out-of-school providers only caring for children over the age of five “should seek to maintain small, consistent groups of no more than 15 children and at least one staff member”. It adds that “where it is possible to do so, providers should 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”.

For providers who are caring for a mix of children aged over and under five, the guidance advises that if you could consider keeping the older children in bubbles, but not the young children, if it is possible to do so.

If it isn’t possible because if you have mixed age groups together, then the guidance states that “you will need to, as far as possible, keep all children irrespective of age in small consistent groups of no more than 15 with at least one staff member, or with more staff members to meet relevant ratio requirements”.

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

DfE guidance states that “providers should encourage children and young people to maintain social distancing where possible, and particularly:

  • where young people will be in close proximity for a prolonged period
  • where they are indoors
  • for secondary age children where evidence suggests the risk of transmission may be higher than for younger children, and who are more able to maintain distance.

It adds that “it is particularly important that social distancing is observed by parents at pick up or drop off, by staff members, and as far as possible between staff members and children and young people attending the setting”.

However, the guidance also states that there will be some situations where it is not possible, such as:

  • between younger children, who will find preserving consistent distance more challenging (whether indoors, or outside)
  • in outdoor activities and sports where young people may come into fleeting but not sustained contact.

 

It states that “where it is not possible for children and young people in the setting to maintain social distancing, it is even more important that providers implement the other protective measures outlined in [the Protective Measures] guidance, such as frequent cleaning and hand-washing.”

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

The DfE advises that the following measurs are put in place where children are singing or playing wind or brass instruments:

  • social distancing is observed at all times whilst playing wind or brass instruments or singing (2 metres, wherever possible, or 1 metre with robust risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable)
  • children should use seating where practical to help maintain social distancing
  • back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) is used whenever possible
  • position wind and brass players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player
  • activities which can create aerosol are discouraged, such as shouting or singing loudly - we advise providers to use microphones where possible or encourage children to sing quietly
  • singing or playing wind or brass instruments outdoors, wherever possible
  • if playing wind or brass instruments indoors or singing indoors, you should limit the number of children attending to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to social distance
  • take steps to improve ventilation as far as possible and whenever possible, either through the use of mechanical systems and/or opening windows and doors
  • if hosting a performance, limit as far possible the number of performers and audience members
  • steps are taken to encourage audiences to support the overall safety of the event, including seating individuals rather than allowing them to stand (to help maintain social distancing) and the other mitigations outlined in this guidance
  • limit the duration of activity as far as possible, including considering the need for breaks and intervals
  • continue to take the other vital steps outlined in this guidance, including preventing unwell people from attending, maintaining cleanliness, supporting contact tracing and other mitigating measures.
Are we allowed to put on musical performances?

It depends what tier you are in? DfE guidance states that “Providers in ‘very high’ local restriction tier areas should not host performances with an audience. In these cases, providers should use alternative methods such as live streaming and recording performances, subject to the usual safeguarding considerations and parental permission.”

Providers in other local restriction tier areas planning an indoor or outdoor performance in front of an audience “should follow the latest advice in the DCMS performing arts guidance, implementing events in the lowest risk order as described. If planning an outdoor performance they should also give particular consideration to the guidance on delivering outdoor events”.

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

Yes, in all tiers – however, the government may reintroduce more restrictive formal shielding measures for the clinically extremely vulnerable in the worst affected areas, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

DfE guidance states that “This will only apply to some very high local restriction tier areas, and the government will write to families separately to inform them if clinically extremely vulnerable children are advised to shield and not attend school. Children who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, but who are not clinically extremely vulnerable themselves, can still attend education settings”


Operational 

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

Yes. The Department for Education has advised that providers should maximise the use of private outdoor space, and can take groups of children to outdoor public places that are open provided: 

  • it is for the purpose of education or childcare  
  • they remain within the EYFS staff child ratios  
  • they conduct a risk assessment in advance  
  • the risk assessment demonstrates that they can remain socially distant (2 metres) from other people and groups, wherever possible  
  • good hygiene is maintained throughout  
  • thorough handwashing happens before and after the trip
  • the trip is carried out in line with relevant local restriction tier guidance and coronavirus (COVID-19) secure measures on transport and at the destination
  • appropriate insurance arrangements are in place.
Can we take children to indoor spaces, such as soft play?

Yes. DfE guidance states: “Settings may take children on trips to indoor spaces, for example, to a soft play centre when they are permitted to be open in all local restriction tiers.”

It adds: “Settings must ensure they have fully assessed the risks and have completed a risk assessment prior to a trip” and that “settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘system of controls’ collaboratively, to identify and address any risks and allow them to jointly agree appropriate care for the children.”

The guidance also states that Pnce inside the space, setting leaders should remain with the children in their group, and the group should socially distance from other individuals and groups. Children and staff should wash hands thoroughly on arrival and before leaving.

Adults (and children over 11) will “also be required to follow the face covering policy for the indoor space”.

Can we put on performances at the setting?

It depends what tier you are based in. DfE guidance states that: “Settings in local restriction tier 3: very high alert areas should not host performances with an audience. In these cases, settings should use alternative methods such as live streaming and recording, subject to the usual safeguarding considerations and parental permissions.”

Settings in other local restriction tiers who planning an indoor or outdoor performance in front of an audience “should follow the latest advice in the DCMS performing arts guidance, implementing events in the lowest risk order as described. If planning an outdoor performance they should also give particular consideration to the guidance on delivering outdoor events”.

More generally, the guidance now states that singing and wind playing can only take place if “significant space, natural airflow (at least 10l/s/person for all present, including audiences can be maintained”. 

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

DfE guidance states that “Settings should … ensure site guidance on social distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival. Where visits can happen outside of setting hours, a record should be kept of all visitors - where this is practical - which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.”

Can settings have external providers (e.g. yoga activity sessions) into the setting?

From 2 December onwards:

Yes. DfE guidance states that: “In instances where settings need to use other essential professionals such as social workers, speech and language therapists or counsellors, or other professionals to support delivery of a child’s EHC plan, settings should assess whether the professionals need to attend in person or can do so virtually. Visits that allow a vulnerable child to meet a social worker, key worker or other necessary support should continue on site. Visits for SEND therapies should also continue on site.”

Those that need to attend in person should:

  • follow guidance relevant to the setting
  • keep the number of attendances to a minimum
  • wash hands frequently
  • where possible to do so, maintain social distancing
  • be informed about the ‘system of controls’ in settings.

 

It also states that settings can continue to engage external providers who move between different early years settings (“peripatetic teachers”) but that the number should be minimised where possible.

Such providers should maintain distancing requirements with each group they teach, where appropriate, meaning that peripatetic teachers should not provide physical correction or demonstration with children make efforts to reduce the number of groups taught and locations worked in, to reduce the number of contacts made”. A record should be kept of all visits.

 

5 November to 2 December:

During the November lockdown, providers should only allow for visits that are “absolutely necessary”. 

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

DfE guidance states that “Recruitment should continue as usual” but adds that “As this guidance advises limiting the number of visitors wherever possible, it may be appropriate for settings to consider a flexible approach to interviews, with alternative options to face-to-face interviews offered where possible, such as using video conferencing.”

Do temporary changes to the EYFS still apply?

On 24 April, the government brought into force changes to how the EYFS applies during the coronavirus outbreak, including asking early years providers to use “reasonable endeavours” to learning and development requirements, instead of this being something they ‘must do’. The Early Years Alliance has provided an overview of these changes online.

EYFS learning and development and assessment requirements resumed from 26 September 2020 and must continue to be met. The 2 month transitional period for requirements relating to staff qualifications and Paediatric First Aid changes ended on 25 November 2020. However, if a provider is subject to any national or local Covid-related restrictions which affect their ability to comply with the EYFS, then these disapplications will be reapplied.

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.”

When will Ofsted inspections be restarting?

Ofsted has temporarily suspended all routine inspections due to the outbreak, and while they had intended to resume full inspections in January 2021, this is now under review following the announcement of the second month-long lockdown period from 5 November to 2 December 2020. 

However, a phased return to inspection, begun during the autumn term will continue for now, with Ofsted reiterating that in-person visits will only be carried out. Its guidance states:  

“From September 2020 we will begin carrying out regulatory activity in providers that have been judged inadequate or requires improvement and have associated actions to fulfil. 

“Inspectors will look at what action leaders and managers have taken since the last inspection. In these visits, inspectors will confirm whether the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) are met. Currently, the DfE has disapplied the learning and development requirements until 25 September 2020. 

“Visits will not result in an inspection grade, but inspectors can use regulatory or enforcement actions if appropriate. 

“We will publish an outcome summary after a visit, confirming whether a provider has improved and is meeting the requirements of EYFS.” 

Pre-registration visits, including on-site visits, resumed in June and these will continue throughout the November lockdown.

Ofsted will again consider on an individual basis and in agreement with the setting whether these need to be on-site or if they could feasibly be virtual. 

What financial support is available for providers during this period?

Job Retention Scheme:  The government has confirmed that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended to the end of March 2021, with  employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Early years providers will be able to access the scheme in the way as before (i.e. "to cover up to the proportion of its paybill which could be considered to have been paid for from that provider’s private income"). 

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme: The government has announced that self-employed individuals will receive 80% of their average trading profits for November to January through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), up to a maximum of £7,500, following the announcement of a second national lockdown. The scheme was previously scheduled to be reduced to 40% of trading profits as of 1 November.

Continuation of early entitlement funding: The DfE had previously stated that it had expected to return to the normal process for early years funding in January 2021 (i.e. funding based on current child numbers), but that it would "keep this under review and confirm the approach in further guidance in the autumn". In light of the new lockdown, we are currently chasing the Department for an update on this review and calling for an extension of early entitlement funding support to the spring term. 

A comprehensive overview of the financial support available for early years provider can be found on our Business Advice page.

The Early Years Alliance is also calling on the government to provide urgent additional transitional funding to support providers at a time where parental demand for places is expected to be low, and settings are potentially required to keep overall numbers lower than normal in order to follow government advice on minimising transmission.

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 not recommended because it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry toothbrushing.”

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.

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

 

 

 

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