20 May 2020

Updated guidance: actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak

On 15 May 2020, the government updated its guidance for early years and childcare providers to reflect the current position regarding the phased return of children to education.

The guidance applies to maintained schools, independent schools, all providers on the early years register including wraparound childcare and clubs (before and after school and holiday care), and all providers registered with an early years childminder agency. It does not apply to nannies or au pairs, as they work in the child/children’s family home.

We have summarised the key changes below, but we recommend that all early years and childcare providers review the updated guidance, in full, available here.

  • From 1 June, all children are encouraged to attend childcare. All childcare settings will be asked to welcome back all children below statutory school age, to include reopening if they had previously closed.
  • Existing EYFS space requirements and staff-to-child ratios should already allow for small group working without amendment. However, where the physical layout of a setting does not allow children to be kept in small groups, and to avoid mixing of children between groups, it is expected that practitioners exercise judgement in ensuring the highest standards of safety are maintained. In some cases this may include introducing a temporary cap on numbers.
  • The DfE is continuing to work with the childcare sector to understand how it can best be supported, to ensure that sufficient safe, appropriate and affordable childcare is available for those returning to work now, and for all families who need it in the longer term. Further guidance will be produced shortly.
  • Vulnerable children’s attendance is encouraged, where it is appropriate for them.

For vulnerable children who have a social worker, it will be appropriate if attendance is in line with the advice set out by Public Health England.

For vulnerable children who have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan, attendance is encouraged where it is determined, following risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely, or more safely, met in the educational environment.

For vulnerable children who are deemed otherwise vulnerable, at the childcare setting, school or local authority’s discretion, attendance is encouraged where this is “appropriate” (no definition of appropriate is provided).

  • If a child moves settings, as a minimum, and before their arrival wherever possible, the receiving setting should, as appropriate, have access to a vulnerable child’s EHC plan, child in need plan, child protection plan or, for looked-after children, their personal education plan. Details of the child’s social worker should also be provided as appropriate.
  • All other aspects of the safeguarding and welfare section of the EYFS still apply, including requirements relating to child protection arrangements. Where new staff are recruited, or new volunteers enter the childcare setting, they should continue to be provided with a safeguarding induction.

Nurseries

  • A list of children prioritised for education provision can be found here. Early years settings have been advised to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020.
  • Nurseries are expected to comply with the law and take a reasonable and proportionate approach to parents’ fees, in light of these unprecedented circumstances, and to communicate any arrangements clearly with them.
  • Temporary changes have been implemented regarding the 30 hours free entitlement so that all eligible parents, including critical workers, are not disadvantaged during the coronavirus outbreak. Specifically, parents who will not meet the minimum income threshold (16 hours per week at National Minimum/Living Wage) as a result of the impact on their earnings of the pandemic will be treated as meeting that test. Guidance will be updated in due course.
  • All eligible parents are encouraged to continue to apply for, and reconfirm, their 30 hours entitlement, even when childcare settings remain closed to all but vulnerable children and children of critical workers. There will be some flexibility afforded for those that have already missed the deadline.

Other childcare providers

  • To align with the government’s position on nannies, paid childcare can now be provided to the children of one household from Wednesday 13 May. This includes childminders, who may choose to look after the children of one household if they are not already looking after vulnerable children or those of critical workers.
  • From 1 June 2020, childminders can look after children of all ages, in line with their current Ofsted registration, and within usual limits on the number of children they can care for.

 Protective measures

  • Guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings has been published (available here) and focuses on measures that can be put in place to help limit risk of the virus spreading whilst still delivering education. Further guidance regarding the recommended operation of early years settings will be published shortly.
  • The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. The current guidance is that PPE is only needed where intimate care is implemented, or in certain circumstances where a child is unwell with Covid-19 symptoms.
  • In line with the government’s recent announcement, all essential workers, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus, can be tested. This list of essential workers includes early years staff.

The new guidance has provided some useful clarity on how the phased reopening of education settings will affect the early years providers. However we are awaiting further guidance on some of the key issues including operational issues, including protective measures and equipment. We will keep you updated as and when further guidance is released. Until then, we recommend that early years providers begin preparing a risk assessment in line with our guidance note, available here.

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About the Author
Emma Glazzard, Solicitor

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