Operating during the coronavirus lockdown and beyond

Rainbow chalks

We have produced the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide below to help providers as they re-open. This FAQ page will be regularly updated as we get more information and clarification from the DfE.

The below information is accurate as of 23 September 2020 and is primarily based on the Department for Education's:


Reopening

Do I have to reopen my provision?

No. The government "asked” providers to open on 1 June, but it is not a requirement. 

Why has the government asked early years providers to reopen?

The government has shared an overview of the scientific advice and information it has received on this here.

Are out-of-school clubs and holiday clubs allowed to open?

The Department for Education has confirmed that: “Wraparound providers which are registered with Ofsted or with a Childminder Agency and run before and/or after school clubs on school premises or in early years settings, and can ensure they follow the safe working guidance, are able to operate.”

It has also confirmed that as of 4 July 2020, “providers who run community activities, holiday clubs, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children” operating from other premises can operate over the summer holidays.

New guidance for out-of-school providers is available here.

For out-of-school clubs operating from the autumn term, when schools reopen, the guidance states that they should "keep children in small groups of no more than 15 children with the same children each time wherever possible ... and at least one staff member, depending on the type of provision or size of the group".

The guidance also states that: "Where it is possible to do so, providers should also 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."

Where it is not possible to group children in the same bubbles as they are in during the school day, the DfE says that providers should "seek to keep children in consistent groups, as far as possible, and frequently review these groups to minimise the amount of ‘mixing’".

The guidance goes on to state: "For example, when new children register for your provision, you may wish to firstly determine whether they attend the same school or early years setting as other children in your setting and group them together if appropriate."

Are settings operating from spaces which have been told to close, such as churches and community halls, able to reopen?

Yes. Department for Education guidance states that: “Since 1 June, community centres, village halls and places of worship have been able to open for providers on the early years register which usually use those premises. Providers should ensure they are acting in line with the protective measures and safe working guidance as well as the planning guide for early years and childcare settings. They should also ensure they are managing risks related to other users of the premises.”

Can local authorities who are opposed to the reopening of schools and early years settings able to prevent PVI providers who are based in LA-owned buildings from opening (by not letting them use the building)?

The Department for Education has confirmed to the Alliance that this would depend on the agreement or contract between the local authority and the provider, highlighting that section 9 in the Childcare Act 2006 states as follows:

Arrangements between local authority and childcare providers

(1) This section applies where an English local authority makes arrangements with a person (other than the governing body of a maintained school) for the provision by that person of childcare in consideration of financial assistance provided by the authority under the arrangements.

(2) The local authority must exercise their functions with a view to securing that the provider of the childcare meets any requirements imposed on him by the arrangements.

(3) The requirements imposed by the arrangements may, in particular, if any specified conditions are not satisfied, require the repayment of the whole or any part of any financial assistance provided by the local authority under the arrangements.”

The DfE additionally advised that local authorities do have duties to secure free childcare provision in their areas under the Act more widely and that providers could consider challenging their local authority under the agreement.

My local authority has advised local schools and early years settings not to reopen. Does this mean I can’t?

No. It is up to private, voluntary and independent providers whether or not they choose to reopen.

If more parents want their children to return to the setting than can be safely cared for, how do I/we prioritise?

The guidance on reopening states that providers should “discuss options with their local authority or trust” and that solutions may involve children attending a nearby setting, though it notes that this should be “on a consistent basis”.

The guidance also advises that “if necessary, settings have the flexibility to focus first on continuing to provide places for priority groups” and suggests that early years settings prioritise three- and four-year-olds, followed by younger age groups.

The Alliance additionally advises that you may want to prioritise places based on the needs of the child (for example, prioritising a child who is not officially defined as vulnerable but could be considered to be) and/or the needs of their parents (for example, prioritising a parent who is working and cannot work from home).

However, DfE guidance states that: “We anticipate that the proposed change to the protective measures in early years settings from 20 July (removal of groups) should mean prioritisation will no longer be necessary and all children should be able to attend as normal.”

If the area I am/we are located in goes into local lockdown, do we have to close?

It is possible, but unlikely. Government guidance states that "in local areas where restrictions have been implemented for certain sectors ... education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all".

The guidance outlines four levels, or 'Tiers', of local lockdown restrictions, ranging from Tier 1 (the most relaxed) to Tier 4 (the most restrictive). The tier of local lockdown enforced in a particular area will depend on the level of local outbreak.

Under Tiers 1 - 3, early years providers will be able to remain open to all children. Only under Tier 4 would settings be asked to close to all but key worker children and vulnerable children.

Essentially, this means that when an area is placed into local lockdown,  it is unlikely that early years providers will be asked to (partially) close, and this will only happen in limited circumstances, if deemed absolutely necessary.

The full guidance is available here.

Do I/we need to tell Ofsted if I am/we are open or closed?

The DfE has asked Ofsted to monitor which providers on the early years register are open or closed to help find out if there is sufficient and accessible childcare available to meet demand.

If you receive an email from Ofsted asking you about your setting and plans for the future, please check that this email comes from an Ofsted.gov.uk address before responding.

If your operating circumstances change (i.e. you open or close) in the meantime, you should let Ofsted know by sending an email to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field, and including your unique reference number (URN) for each setting if you have more than one, and the details of the change in the body of the email.


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. 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 a holiday club for both younger and older children. Do I have to use bubbles?

Updated DfE guidance states that holiday club 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.

Holiday club 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”.

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”.

It adds that: “If you are operating provision for multiple small groups of children throughout the day, you should allow sufficient changeover time between different classes to allow for cleaning to take place and to prevent children and parents or carers waiting in large groups” and that “you should not offer overnight or residential provision to children for the time-being.”

Are children allowed to attend more than one setting?

Yes, although this should be avoided where possible. 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.”

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

The Department for Education states that “few if any children” will fall into the category of clinically vulnerable, but that “parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category”.

As of 1 August, shielding advice for all adults and children will pause, subject to a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated DfE guidance states that this means that “even the small number of children who will remain on the shielded patient list can return to settings, as can those who have family members who are shielding”.

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 we still allowed to use agency staff?

The DfE guidance says: Where possible, the presence of any additional members of staff should be agreed on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis to limit contacts”.

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 members of staff who have underlying health conditions expected to return to work?

As of 1 August, shielding advice for all adults and children has been paused. This will continue subject to a decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Government guidance states that staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (for example, those with specific canders or severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis) “can return to settings provided their setting has implemented the system of controls outlined in this guidance [Actions for Early Years Providers], in line with the setting’s own workplace risk assessment and advice relevant to local areas, for example in areas of high transmission.”

Clinically vulnerable staff (such as those with diabetes or mild-to-moderate asthma) can also return to settings and should “follow the sector-specific measures in this guidance to minimise the risks of transmission.”

Staff who are pregnant should be consider clinically vulnerable. The DfE states that “Employers should conduct a risk assessment for pregnant women in line with the Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations 1999.”

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

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 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.
  • On 22 September, the DfE updated its guidance to add that 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.
  • 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? 

The guidance states that: “Based on current evidence and the measures that early years settings are already putting in place, face coverings are not necessary when adults are interacting with children, even where social distancing is not possible. Face coverings may have a negative impact on interactions between staff and children, and their use when interacting with children in this settings should be avoided.”

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.

On 22 September, the DfE updated its guidance to add that 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 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).”

Are parents and carers allowed inside the setting?

It depends on the reason. 

DfE guidance says: “Parents and carers should not be allowed into the setting unless this is a specific need” and that  “children should be dropped off and collected at the door if possible”.

For children starting at a new setting, the DfE guidance explains that parents can enter settings to help children adapt to the new environment. Providers can also conduct setting visits, although the guidance states that “For new admissions, settings should consider providing virtual tours for prospective parents and carers”.

“Settings should ensure that parents and carers visiting their setting:

• wear face coverings, if required, in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting (see section 3 on face coverings)

• 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.”

Providers should let parents/carers know about these rules before they arrive at the setting.

The DfE guidance adds: “A record should be kept of all visitors which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.”

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”.


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 get tested 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.”

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. The DfE guidance states that: “Childminding settings should consider how they can work with parents and carers to agree how best to manage any necessary journeys, for example pick-ups and drop-offs at schools, to reduce the need for a provider to travel with groups of children.

“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".

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

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.” 


Baby and toddler

Can groups where parents stay with their children operate e.g. stay and play / baby and toddler?

Yes, depending on the premises they are based in, and the guidance groups operating in those premises have to follow. 

For groups using community facilities, the relevant guidance (available here) states that community facilities can open for the provision of services for children and young people, adding that:  

“It is important for people to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene when visiting these spaces. People using community facilities should continue to limit their interactions with those they do not live with outside of any formal activities they are participating in to help control the virus. 

“People meeting in a club or group context at a community centre should be encouraged to socially distance from anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble.” 

This guidance also states that “On entering a community facility users will be required to wear a face covering, and will be required to keep it on, unless covered under a ‘reasonable excuse’. This could be for a gym class, if users need to eat or drink something, or if they have a health or disability reason to not wear one. Face coverings can be removed if users are undertaking exercise or an activity where it would negatively impact their ability to do so.” 

It adds that: “Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 11 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. A list of individuals this might apply to includes (but is not limited to):

  • where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • employees of indoor settings (or people acting on their behalf, such as someone leading part of a prayer service) or transport workers - although employers may consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines
  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public
  • if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate.

You can read further guidance on wearing face coverings here.

From 14 September, in most cases, no more than six people can legally meet together socially (down from the previous limit of 30). However, government guidance released on 9 September confirms that people will still be able to meet in groups of more than six for registered childcare (including wraparound care), youth groups and activities, and other children's groups. 

The DfE has confirmed to the Alliance that: “Baby and toddler groups are included in the supervised activities provided for children”.

The relevant guidance is available  here  (see sections 2.10 and 2.15) 

In terms of social distancing requirements, updated DfE feedback (received by the Alliance on 17 September 2020) now states that: “Young children and children with special educational needs may not be able to understand the need for social distancing and may also seek close interaction with their peers or adults to provide reassurance at a period of disruption to their routines. As far as possible, small groups of children should be supported by consistent staffing, and groups should remain as consistent as possible throughout the outbreak.”

The DfE has also stated that while standalone baby and toddler groups (and similar groups) are allowed to reopen, registered early years settings should continue to follow the DfE guidance, which states that “Parents and carers should not be allowed into the setting unless this is essential”. This means that registered early years providers are currently not permitted to run stay and play sessions.

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.

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

Visit this page to set up a QR code.


Operational 

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

Yes. The Department for Education guidance states that: “Settings should maximise use of private outdoor space, while keeping small groups of children and staff away from other groups.

“Childminders and early years providers may take small groups of children to outdoor public spaces, for example parks, provided that a risk assessment demonstrates that they can stay 2m away from other people at all times.

“This should be restricted to small groups and should be done in line with wider government guidelines on the number of people who can meet in outdoor public places. Providers should not take larger groups of children to public outdoor spaces at one time.”

The Department for Education has additionally confirmed to the Alliance that early years providers can take children to outdoor spaces in groups larger than six “as this reflects the exception to the Health Protection Coronavirus, Restrictions legislation [which] states that gatherings of more than 6 can take place for the purposes of early year childcare”. 

The DfE additionally stated that: “Settings can take children outdoors provided they remain within the EYFS staff-child ratios, conduct a risk assessment (if applicable) in advance and remain socially distant (2m) from other people. They should ensure good hygiene throughout and thorough handwashing before and after the trip” and that: “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.” 

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

DfE guidance states that “Settings should consider how to manage other visitors to the site, such as contractors, and ensure site guidance on social distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival. Where visits can happen outside of setting hours, they should. A record should be kept of all visitors where this is practicable.”

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

It depends on the provider. The Department for Education has said that for non-staff members like speech and language therapists or counsellors, “settings should assess whether the professionals need to attend in person or can do so virtually” and that “if they need to attend in person, they should closely follow the protective measures guidance, and the number of attendances should be kept to a minimum.”

The guidance adds that where possible, the presence of additional members of staff should be agreed on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis to limit contacts.

However, the Department has said that sessions delivered by external providers which are not directly required for children’s health and wellbeing “should be suspended”.

Do temporary changes to the EYFS still apply after 1 June?

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.

Department for Education guidance states that:

  • all the learning and development and assessment disapplications will be removed as of 25 September 2020, meaning that providers will be required to reinstate the EYFS for these areas in full from 26 September 2020.
  • for safeguarding and welfare disapplications (including requirements on Paediatric First Aid training), there will be a two-month transitional period between 26 September 2020 to 25 November 2020. This means that providers will need to meet these requirements in full by 26 November 2020.

In addition, the Department has confirmed that between 26 September 2020 and 31 August 2021, all EYFS disapplications (other than for the EYFS Profile) will be reapplied if the ability of providers to comply with the EYFS is impacted by coronavirus-related restrictions that have been imposed by the government.

This essentially means that if the government makes changes, such as announcing a local or national lockdown, that prevent early years providers from adhering to normal EYFS requirements, the EYFS disapplications rolled out in April will be reapplied - so for example, early years providers would once again be expected to use 'reasonable endeavours' to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS, instead of this being something they ‘must do’.

In instances of local lockdown, providers don't need to be located in the geographical area where the restrictions are applied but the restrictions do need to prevent them from complying with the EYFS - for example, because their staff live in the area where the restrictions apply and are not able to get into work.

When will Ofsted inspections be restarting?

Ofsted inspectors will start undertaking some regulatory activity to providers who have been judged ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ and have associated actions to fulfil in the autumn term. These visits will not result in a judgement, but Ofsted will publish a short summary to confirm what it found during the visit.

Routine early years inspections are expected to restart from January 2021, although the exact timings are being kept under review.

What financial support is available for providers during this period?

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 seeking urgent clarity from the government on 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.

My Paediatric First Aid Certificates will expire within the next three months. What should I do?

The government has confirmed that: "If PFA certificate requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with coronavirus (COVID-19), or by complying with related government advice, the validity of current certificates can be extended to 25 November 2020 at the latest. This applies to certificates which expired on or after 16 March 2020.”

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.”

I run a musical group. Are we allowed to sing?

Yes. Updated government guidance states that “Government guidance also states that: “Both professionals and non-professionals can now engage in singing, wind and brass in line with the performing arts guidance”.

According to the latest DfE guidance, providers should take the following safety precautions:

  • playing instruments and singing in groups should take place outdoors wherever possible if indoors
  • use a room with as much space as possible, for example larger rooms. Rooms with high ceilings are expected to enable dilution of aerosol transmission
  • if playing indoors, social distance each child 2 metres apart
  • limit the numbers to account for ventilation of the space. It is important to ensure good ventilation. Advice on this can be found in Air Conditioning and Ventilation During the Coronavirus Outbreak
  • singing and wind playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles
  • position wind players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player use microphones where possible or encourage singing quietly.”
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.


Key links

Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak

Local lockdowns: guidance for education and childcare settings

Covid 19 - Early outbreak management

Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Early years and childcare: Coronavirus Covid 19

Safe working in education, childcare and children's social care

Ofsted: Interim visits: registered early years providers

COVID-19: Cleaning of non-healthcare settings

Early Years Foundation Stage: Coronavirus disapplications

Criticial workers who can access schools or educational settings

Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 Recovery Strategy

 


FREE RESOURCE PACKS

The Welcome Back bundle

We have produced a free bundle of packs (three in total) to support you, your children and your families as your provision re-opens.

Pack 1   Pack 2   

 

Pack 1: Supporting practitioners, children and families to return to your provision

Pack 1This first pack in the bundle supports you to keep children at the heart of your provision during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) period and beyond.

Relevant to all early years workers including nursery or pre-school managers, childminders or volunteers, this resource will:

— consider the implications for a return to ‘normal’ as children, families and practitioners prepare to return to the setting
— introduce practical ideas and resources to ease the transition from lockdown
— prepare you to meet the needs of those who have suffered loss or had difficult experiences during lockdown.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

 

Watch it now! Webinar: Supporting practitioners, children and families to return to your provision

Pack 2: Preparing your premises and the early years environment

Pack 2This resource pack supports you by offering practical actions required to prepare effectively for re-opening. 

Nursery and pre-school managers, practitioners, childminders and volunteers will:

— identify the steps necessary to prepare successfully for the opening of their service and identify some changes to practice that may be required
— consider the health and safety implications for buildings where their service is situated that have been closed
— recognise the importance of creating a welcoming environment for children and their families who have been away for some time.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

Pack 3: Meet the needs of children from day one

Pack 3This pack covers:

— settling-in and supporting transitions (building on information from More About Me)
— a focus on observation and assessment
— to establish ‘where children are now’ in their learning and development
— recognising specific issues i.e. behaviour management
— safeguarding, SEND and the implications for children who have had negative experiences of being at home.

Placing the child at the centre of the process, practitioners are encouraged to consider how to create an environment — physically, emotionally and pedagogically — that ensures, as far as possible, the health and safety of children and supports their learning and development.

This pack is FREE to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can buy it from the Alliance online shop.

 

Watch it now! Webinar: Meet the needs of children from day one

 


 FREE 'WELCOME BACK' PACKS FOR CHILDMINDERS

The Welcome Back bundle

The three packs that make up the ‘Welcome Back’ bundle have been developed to support childminders as you consider the implications for welcoming children back to your home.

The emphasis throughout is to keep children at the centre of the process. Each pack addresses the challenges you may face as you provide a welcoming, safe and stimulating environment in your home. You will be encouraged to reflect on the government’s guidance and consider the options for your provision.

The templates included are easily adaptable to suit the unique circumstances faced by you and the families you support.

Supporting mental health and wellbeing  Creating a safe and enabling environment  Meeting the needs of every child from day one

 

Pack 1: Supporting mental health and wellbeing

Supporting mental health coverThe presentation focuses on your own mental health and wellbeing as well as the children in your care.

It covers:

— the emotional implications for you, the children and the families you support as we all prepare to return to the ‘new normal’

— practical ideas and resources to support you to ease into the transition from lockdown

— preparation to meet the needs of those who have suffered loss or had difficult experiences during lockdown.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

Pack 2: Creating a safe and enabling environment

Creating a safe and enabling environmentThis presentation supports you to consider some of the practical actions that are required prior to re-opening.

There is one template included that may help you to complete a risk assessment as required by the government. There is also a checklist that will help you to focus on some of the additional things that the government has identified.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

Pack 3: Meeting the needs of every child from day one 

Meeting the needs of every child coverThis pack builds on Pack One, as it relies on the information you gather prior to re-opening. There is also emphasis on using the EYFS principles to inform practice.

The presentation focuses on how you can support the personal, social and emotional development of every child from the moment they return to you.

There are four templates included in this pack.

The pack and adaptable templates are free to Alliance members and available in the Members' Area.

Non-members can purchase all three packs in the Welcome Back Childminder bundle for just £15 in our online shop.

 


Resources to support provision staying open during lockdown

The Alliance has produced a resource, Maintaining your provision and staying opento support providers that are staying open and operating during the pandemic.

Read more details about Maintaining your provision and staying open

The pack supports you to consider the disapplications and moderations to the EYFS that came into force on 24 April. You can use these with your teams or colleagues to share information and to reflect on the implications for your practice.

The pack includes a PDF presentation and facilitator notes, paediatric First Aid risk assessment and guidance plus other resources on ratios. 

The pack is free to members and available in the Members' Area.

For an explanation of the temporary changes to the EYFS during the pandemic please read our EYFS changes in the coronavirus crisis page.

 


 

 

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