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 7 September 2021 and is primarily based on:

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


General

Who is able to operate?

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

As of Step 4, which the country entered on 19 July 2021, parent and child groups can operate as normal without restrictions on attendance.

The DfE has provided further information on Step 4 changes for early years settings here.

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

Department for Education guidance states that “The general principle is that providers should not charge parents or carers for services that cannot be provided. If there is a barrier to accessing childcare, based on government guidance or the law, the provider should not charge the parents or carers for this period. For example, since 28 September people in England have been required by law to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Accordingly, if a child is self-isolating having been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, the provider should not charge the parent or carer for this period.” 

However, it also advises: “However, as lockdown laws and the nature of the legal restrictions they impose change over time, the consequences for individual contracts may become less clear-cut and more fact-specific. Ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies, and in many cases this will be the first time the issues have been considered in the context of a pandemic like this.”

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

Bubbles and attendance

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

No, as of Step 4, children no longer need to be in consistent groups, though keeping groups apart may have to be reintroduced in instances of local outbreaks. 

Are children allowed to attend more than one setting?

Yes, from Step 4 there is no need to minimise the number of settings a child attends.

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

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

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

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

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?

Government guidance states that: “Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people are advised, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. It is important that everyone adheres to this guidance, but CEV people may wish to think particularly carefully about the additional precautions they can continue to take. Further information can be found in the guidance on protecting people who are CEV from COVID-19.

Social distancing measures have now ended in the workplace and it is no longer necessary for the government to instruct people to work from home. Employers should be able to explain the measures they have in place to keep CEV staff safe at work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplaceNB: 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.

In some cases, pregnant women may also have other health conditions that mean they are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, where the guidance on shielding and protecting clinically extremely vulnerable persons will apply.  

Pregnant staff and their employers should follow the advice in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees. Further advice for pregnant staff is available at guidance and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and pregnancy from the Royal College of Gynaecologists.

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

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

Are we still allowed to use agency staff?

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

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

DfE guidance states: “All children and staff travelling to England must adhere to travel legislation, details of which are set out in red, amber and green list rules for entering England."

Are staff allowed to work two jobs?

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

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

Current DfE guidance contains no restrictions on early years placements. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Minimising risk of infection transmission

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

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

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

1. Ensure good hygiene for everyone

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

3. Keep occupied spaces well ventilated 

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

Now that restrictions are easing, how often do we need to clean surfaces?

DfE guidance, updated in line with Step 4 of lockdown easing, states that: “You should put in place and maintain an appropriate cleaning schedule. This should include regular cleaning of areas and equipment (for example, twice per day) with a particular focus on frequently touched surfaces.

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

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

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

A good plan should cover: 

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

For each control measure you should include: 

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

Face coverings are no longer recommended for staff and visitors in corridors and communal areas, although DfE guidance also states: “If you have an outbreak in your setting, a director of public health might advise you that face coverings should temporarily be worn in communal areas by staff and visitors (unless they have an exemption).”

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

The government guidance states that: “Most staff in settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. The guidance on Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) provides more information on the use of PPE for COVID-19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government guidance on how to use these monitors is available here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can children take part in messy play?

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

Are parents and carers allowed inside the setting?

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

Can early years professionals conduct home visits?

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


Close contact

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

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

Following changes to self-isolation introduced on 16 August 20201, people who have been fully vaccinated (i.e. those who have had two doses of an approved vaccine, with the second dose being received at least two weeks beforehand), and those aged under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case. 

However, they are advised to take a PCR test at their earliest convenience.

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

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

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

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

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

I am double-vaccinated. If I am identified as a close contact of a positive case after 16 August, what will I need to do?

Double-vaccinated adults who have been identified as a contact of a positive Covid case will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to take a PCR test (though this is not a legal requirement), instead of self-isolating. They will not need to self-isolate while awaiting their test results though the government advises that they may want to “minimise social contact” during this time.

An adult is considered fully vaccinated from two weeks after they have received the second dose of an approved vaccine. 

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

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

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

As of 16 August, under 18s who have been identified as a close contact of someone who had testeda positive for Covid case will now be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised to take a PCR test (though this is not a legal requirement). They will not need to self-isolate unless they later receive a positive test result, or develop Covid symptoms. 

For under-fives, a PCR test will only be advised if the positive Covid case is a member of their own household. 

If a child is identified as a close contact after 16 August, and is awaiting the results of a PCR test, do they have to stay home while awaiting their results?

No – DfE guidance states that: “The child can continue to attend the setting while waiting for the PCR test result. The child should self-isolate if the test is positive or the child develops COVID-19 symptoms.”

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

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

The guidance states that “from 16 August, if you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months you will not be required to self-isolate if you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.” 

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

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

What happens if a doubled-vaccinated adult or under-18 is partway through a self-isolation period on 16 August? Do they have to isolate for the full 10 days?

The DfE has advised that fully vaccinated adults and children who are “part way through their self-isolation period (having been identified as a close contact) on 16 August, can stop self-isolating on that date unless they have developed any Covid symptoms.

Are settings expected to verify which staff have had had both vaccines for the purposes of the post 16 Aug rules? 

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


Coronavirus - symptoms and testing

Can early years staff get tested for coronavirus?

Yes. All early years staff (including childminders, and anyone who works in an occupation related to an early years childcare provider) – as well as adults in their households, childcare and support bubbles – are now eligible for twice weekly asymptomatic lateral flow testing. Tests can be taken at a test site, picked up at a collection point, or ordered online.

For more details about how this works, and information on missing test kits read our Lateral Flow Testing in Early Years Settings - What You Need To Know page.

Do we still need to conduct lateral flow tests? 

Yes. DfE guidance states: “Early years staff should undertake twice weekly home tests whenever they are on site until the end of September, when this will also be reviewed.” 

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

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

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

If a child is awaiting collection, appropriate PPE should be used if close contact is necessary. Further information on this can be found in the use of PPE guidance.  Any rooms they use should be cleaned after they have left.  

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

The guidance states that “from 16 August, you will not be required to self-isolate if you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 and any of the following apply”: 

  • you are below the age of 18 years 6 months 
  • you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial 
  • you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons 
  • you are fully vaccinated.
What happens if a child or member of staff starts displaying symptoms while not at the setting?

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

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 ofmost cases” providers and parents/carers will be in agreement that a child with symptoms should not attend the setting, given the potential risk to others. 

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

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

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

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

DfE guidance states that staff and children with a positive rapid lateral flow test result should self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance. They will also need to get a free PCR test to check if they have COVID-19 and to confirm the result. 

Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate. 

If the PCR test is taken within 2 days of the positive rapid lateral flow test, and is negative, it overrides the rapid lateral flow test and they can return to the setting, as long as the individual doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

Those with a negative rapid lateral flow test result can also continue to attend the setting.

If the PCR test is positive, the individual should continue isolating in accordance with general government guidance. 

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

Yes. DfE guidance states that: "You must notify Ofsted, or the childminder agency with which you are registered, of any confirmed cases in the setting, whether a child or a staff member. You should also tell Ofsted if you have to close the setting as a result. This is a legal requirement. Report as soon as you are able to, and in any case within 14 days. See the guidance on reporting incidents to assure all the information required is included.” 

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. Previous DfE guidance stated 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 10-day isolation period, they should get a test.

If the test is negative, they “must remain in isolation for the remainder of the 10-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 10-day isolation period). Their household should self-isolate for at least 10 days from when they first displayed symptoms”.

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

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

Since 16 August, anyone under the age of 18 years and 6 months and fully vaccinated adults do not need to isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case, however they will be advised to take a PCR test. 

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

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

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

Currently if someone in the same household as any 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 10 days from when the first person in their household started experiencing symptoms and should follow government Stay at Home guidance, available here.

However, as of 16 August, people who have been fully vaccinated, and those aged under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case, however they will be advised to take a PCR test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. The DfE has confirmed they do still have to isolate.

However, as of 16 August, people who have been fully vaccinated, and those aged under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case. However they are advised to get a PCR test.

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

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


Childminders

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

Yes.

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

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

Can I meet up with other childminders? 

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

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

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

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

Yes. As of 16 August anyone under the age of 18 years and 6 months is exempt from self-isolation, even if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case. They need only isolate if they themselves become symptomatic or receive a positive test result.

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

No. If you have been fully vaccinated you do not have to isolate however, if someone in the household where you childmind has one of the main symptoms of COVID-19, or a positive test, you cannot care for children on those premises, and should report the case to Ofsted as set out in Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  

You cannot care for children on the relevant domestic premises until all household members have finished isolation and/or sickness periods, whichever is the longest. 

If you have not been fully vaccinated you must isolate and your isolation period includes the day the first person’s symptoms in your household started (or the day their test was taken if they did not have symptoms). Guidance is set out in full in the stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection. You cannot care for children on the premises until 10 full days after the last member of the household either developed symptoms or received a positive Covid test. 

Government guidance also states that “childminders can also operate from non-domestic premises for up to 50% of their time but must apply to Ofsted to be approved before starting.” It goes on to say “You can also continue to care for children if, for example, you were to collect them from school and take them to their parent or carer without taking them to your home. This could include an activity along the way, such as a visit to the park.” However, “you should notify Ofsted if you intend to care for them at the child’s own home.” This should be agreed with parents and carers, and both risk assessments and liability insurance should be reviewed. 

Can a childminder continue to provide a service from their home if a household member is self-isolating due to close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 (e.g. if they are over 18 and not fully vaccinated)?

The Department for Education has advised that: “You can continue to provide childcare at your registered setting as long as the household member who is self-isolating does not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting. For example, the person self-isolating must use a separate bathroom where possible. If the person self-isolating has to use a shared bathroom or other communal areas, these must be thoroughly cleaned after every use.” 

The guidance also states that “The childminder should make every effort to notify parents and carers of the children attending the setting, and any assistants working on the premises, about the self-isolation as soon as reasonably possible and maintain open communication with them throughout the period of self-isolation.  

You must comply with health and safety law by reviewing your risk assessment. The risk assessment must demonstrate:  

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

Further guidance is available in the section on risk assessments in actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic

You should have active arrangements in place to monitor whether the measures you have put in place are effective, working as planned, and updated appropriately (for example when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice).”  

 

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

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

There are currently no restrictions on gathering indoors or outdoors. 


Baby and toddler groups

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

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

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

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

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

 

Out-of-school clubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shielding guidance ended on 1 April, since which time children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can attend settings as normal.


Operational 

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

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

Can we take trips to indoor spaces? 

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

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

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

Can we have volunteers at the setting?

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

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

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

Do temporary changes to the EYFS still apply?

On 24 April 2020, 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. 

However, the government has confirmed that “the period in which disapplications can be used ends on 31 August 2021.

EYFS learning and development and assessment requirements resumed on 26 September 2020 and must continue to be met.

The government has also confirmed that “the extension period for PFA certificates expiring on or after 1 October 2020 has ended, and that practitioners must attend PFA certificate requalification training in order to have a valid certificate, if their previous certificate has expired.

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.”

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 until the end of September 2021, with  employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Early years providers will be able to apply the scheme to an equivalent proportion of their paybill to any losses in both private and public income.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme: The fifth grant covers early May 2021 to the end of September 2021, but the amount available depends on loss of income. Claims for the fifth grant opened in July. You must make your claim on or before 30 September 2021.  Read the government guidance here.

Early entitlement funding:  The DfE has confirmed funding in the summer and autumn term 2021 will be based on the number of children on roll, as was the case in the spring term. A comprehensive overview of the financial support available for early years provider can be found on our Business Advice page.

Are we allowed to continue our toothbrushing programme?

Yes, but you must use a dry brushing method.  

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

Guidance on supervised toothbrushing schemes is available here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer activities

Are we allowed to hold a sports day?

Yes, all limits on indoor and outdoor events will have been removed from government guidance.

Can we go ahead with our planned leavers' event?

Yes, all limits on indoor and outdoor events have been removed from government guidance.

Can we hold taster and open days?

Yes, all limits on indoor and outdoor events have been removed from government guidance.

Can we still put on our end-of-year performance?

Yes, all limits on indoor and outdoor events have been removed from government guidance.


 

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