Early Years Sector Business Support

London’s early years sector is essential to the capital’s economic success. High-quality early education gives children the best learning and development platform for future educational achievement, enables parents to work, promotes social cohesion and fairness, and ensures the poorest children don’t miss out.

However, the sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term sustainability is under threat. As they re-open their doors over the coming weeks and months, many early years providers will need help to navigate the recovery phase of COVID-19.

To support the sector through this challenging time, London Business Hub has partnered with Early Years Alliance to offer sector-specific business support to Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) providers in the capital.

From July to December 2020, these providers can access a range of free resources – from factsheets, to live webinars and workshops run by Early Years Alliance. At any time, they can also book a one-to-one appointment with a London Business Hub Adviser.

Early Years Sector Business Support

Early years sector business support

Q&A

Business Advice – Common Questions

With the outbreak of coronavirus, or Covid-19, and subsequent partial closures for schools and childcare providers we know the early years sector is understandably extremely worried about the impact of this on their families and future sustainability.

We know there are many more questions about how childminders, nurseries and pre-schools will be supported through this outbreak and we’re continuing to raise these to government.

These meetings will continue on a regular basis so we will have the opportunity to raise the questions we receive from our members and the wider sector to try and get clarity on the key issues facing you over the next few months.

Changes and updates to the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme changed from 1 July.

The changes have been incorporated into the Q and A below or read the government guidance on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing.

What business support is available for childcare providers during this period of disruption?

Business rates relief

The Chancellor has announced that private childcare settings will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year. That means non-local authority providers of childcare (registered with Ofsted and providing EYFS) will pay no business rates in 2020 to 2021.

Some settings operate from shared spaces which may now benefit from a 100% rates relief. The government strongly encourages those shared spaces to reflect any business rates saving in their rent charges.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme means that for employees who are not working but kept on payroll (furloughed) ;the government will contribute the majority of each worker’s wages of up to £2,500, backdated to 1 March 2020. We have much more detail on this scheme in the Q and A section below.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme for those who are self-employed or members of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The scheme allows individuals to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. HMRC will contact individuals who are eligible and invite them to apply online

For the self-employed (including childminders), the minimum income floor will also be temporarily relaxed, meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay (SSP).

Applications for a second, and final, grant for the self-employed will open in August. The grant will be paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of average monthly profits at 70%, up to a total of £6,750.

Self-employed Income Scheme: How HMRC works out your total income and trading profits

Small Business Grant and Discretionary Grants Scheme

Small business grants

Childcare providers in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief are eligible for small business grant funding of £10,000. The Department for Education has confirmed that this does not include providers in receipt of charitable status relief.

Discretionary Grants Scheme

Small and micro businesses with fixed property costs that are not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund may be eligible for the Discretionary Grants Scheme – a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000.

You’re potentially eligible if your business:

  • is based in England.
  • has fewer than 50 employees.
  • has fixed building costs such as rent.
  • was trading on 11 March 2020.
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus.

Local authorities are being asked to prioritise a range of small businesses for the grant including those in shared offices or other flexible workspaces, and charity properties getting charitable business rates relief, which are not eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

Read the guidance on the Small Business Grant

Read the guidance on the Discretionary Grants Fund

Other support

  • The Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now be interest-free for 12 months, an increase from six months.
  • VAT payments due with VAT returns between now and the end June 2020 will be deferred. UK VAT registered businesses will not need make those payments until March 2021.
  • The business secretary announced on 28 March 2020 that he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading to help them avoid insolvency. This includes temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for 3 months for company directors so they can keep their business going without the threat of personal liability.
  • Working tax credit has been increased by £1,000 a year.
  • The government has also announced a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element and an increase in the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants so that it covers the cheapest third of local rents.
  • Charity Bank is offering a Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund. The fund has been expanded and improved to make more loans to charities and social enterprises affected by the coronavirus pandemic.offers maximum loans of £5m (minimum still £100k). Loans are interest-free and fee-free for the first 12 months and are available via a fast application process. Find out more here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Furlough Leave and Related Employment Matters

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a scheme where employers can apply for a grant to cover a proportion of usual monthly salary costs of furloughed employees. Furloughed employees are employees who are still employed but are not currently working.

The grant, which does not need to be repaid, will be a maximum of £2,500 a month per employee, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that salary. Fees, commissions and bonuses are not included.

Settings can apply for grant to cover wages as of 1 March 2020. Each grant amount will be based on the employee’s actual salary before tax as of 28 February.

Why has the scheme been introduced?

The scheme is designed to minimise the need for redundancies (because of provision closures or a downturn in business) during the coronavirus outbreak. It introduces a new concept of employees being furloughed and kept on the payroll.

If a staff member’s wage varies from month to month, how will the scheme work?

If an employee has worked at a setting for at least 12 months before a claim is made, but their pay varies, employers can claim for a grant based on whichever is the higher of: the same month’s earning from the previous year (e.g. earnings from March 2019); or average monthly earnings in the 2019-20 tax year.

If the employee has been employed for less than a year, the employer can claim for an average of their monthly earnings since they started work.

How long will the scheme run?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end on 31 October 2020.

From July:

From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for the hours not worked.

The government will continue to pay 80% of employee wages, including national insurance and employer pensions contributions in July. Employers will be able to bring employees back to work for any number of times and for any shift pattern (‘Flexible furlough’). For example, an employee could be brought back for two days a week, with the furlough scheme covering the other three.

The first time you will be able to make claims for days in July will be 1 July, you cannot claim for periods in July before this point.

31 July is the last day that you can submit claims for periods ending on or before 30 June.

For August:

From 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month.

For August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough.

For September:

The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages 10% to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for the time they are furloughed.

For October:

For October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages 20% to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed.

On 31 October, the Job Retention Scheme will close.

Which employers is the scheme open to?

The scheme is open to all UK employers (small or large, charitable or private) that had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020.

What’s the minimum period that a staff member can be placed on furlough leave?

Government guidance states that as of 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any work pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.

Which employees are eligible?

Employees on the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission (real-time information submission) on or before 19 March 2020.

The employee can be on any type of contract, including: full-time employees part-time employees employees on agency contracts employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

To be eligible for the subsidy, an employee cannot undertake work for or on behalf of their setting while on furlough leave. This includes providing services or generating revenue.

If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme. This applies to employees that were made redundant or stopped working for you after 28 February, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19 March. This applies as long as the employee was on your payroll as at 28 February.

More updated guidance on who is eligible here.

Can early years staff on reduced hours benefit from the scheme?

For claim periods up to 30 June if an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

For claim periods starting after 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the grant for the hours not worked.

What if members of staff are self-isolating or are sick?

Government guidance states that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and that if an employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, they may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay.

However, the guidance also states that if an employer wants to furlough an employee for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee. Employers can furlough employees who are on long-term sick leave.

Employers can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.

What about staff shielding in line with public health guidance?

Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough. Shielding is required for people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) accessing the provision. It’s also for their family, friends and carers.

What about staff on unpaid leave?

If an employee started unpaid leave after 28 February 2020, their employer would have been eligible to put them on furlough instead as long as they did this by 10 June for a minimum period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.

If an employee went on unpaid leave on or before 28 February, their employer would not have been able to furlough them until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave.

What about a change in ownership and employees who have transferred under TUPE?

A new employer is eligible to claim under the Scheme in respect of the employees of a previous business transferred after 28th February 2020 if either the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership.

Read more guidance on TUPE rules.

Read more on business succession.

Will employees continue to accrue service and annual leave?

Employees will remain on the payroll and therefore continue to accrue continuous service and their annual leave. Settings are obligated to ensure that staff are entitled to the statutory annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks. Where enhanced annual leave is provided any variation will normally need to be agreed. Settings should review their contracts and Alliance members can obtain legal advice from the free member legal advice service Law-Call.

What if an employee has more than one job?

Both employers will be able to make a claim under the scheme. The percentage wage cap (80% in July and August, 70% in September and 60% in October) applies to each employer.

Can an employee work while on furlough leave?

A staff member of furlough leave can take part in volunteer work as long as it is for another employer or organisation.

Furloughed employees can take part in training for their childcare setting, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the setting. However, if employees are required to, for example, complete online training courses whilst they are on furlough leave, then they must be paid at least the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage for the time spent training, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If staff have already been put on short-term hours working, can this now be converted this to furlough leave?

If employees have already put staff on short-time working on reduced pay, then employers should be able to vary this arrangement so that staff can benefit from the grant payment.

A short term contract must be for a fixed duration and will come to an end once the end date is reached or, if the contract is for a specific task, when the task is complete. Specific advice should be sought from a legal advisor or helpline. Alliance members can contact Law-Call, the 24-hour legal helpline.

What information will settings need to make a claim?

To claim, employers will need:

  • their ePAYE reference number.
  • the number of employees being furloughed.
  • the claim period (start and end date).
  • amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of three weeks).
  • their bank account number and sort code.
  • their contact name.
  • their phone number.

HMRC has stated that it will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of the claim.

Can a setting make more than one claim?

Employers can only submit one claim every three weeks.

When will the HMRC online claims portal be open?

The new online claims system is expected to be ready by the end of April 2020.

What is the Job Retention Bonus?

The Job Retention Bonus is a financial incentive scheme announced by the government in July 2020 which aims to encourage employers to keep on furloughed employees after the Job Retention Scheme finishes at the end of October 2020. Employer will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for every employee who they have previously claimed for under the Job Retention Scheme as long as they remain continuously employed with them until at least 31 January 2021.

To be eligible, employees must earn at least £520 a month on average between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021.

More information is available here.

Update on early entitlement funding (24 July 2020)

The Department for Education has shared its plans for early entitlement funding for the autumn term 2020 and beyond.

The guidance states that local authority funding for the 2020 autumn term will be based on the January 2020 census data. The DfE says that this in recognition of the fact the number of children attending settings may not have returned to normal levels by January 2021.

From the autumn term local authorities will be expected to continue funding providers who are open “at the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus outbreak”.

They should also continue to fund providers which have been advised to close, or “left with no option but to close, due to public health reasons”. Local authorities are not expected to fund providers which are closed “without public health reason”.

The DfE intends to fund settings “as if autumn term 2020 were happening normally”. To do this, local authorities should use the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn term to inform funding levels this autumn.

In “exceptional circumstances” local authorities will be able to “redirect early years dedicated schools grant from providers that are closed” to ensure that there is childcare available for key worker families and vulnerable children.

The DfE guidance also encourages local authorities to consider increasing the frequency of payments to providers from termly to monthly to allow for adjustments as providers reopen.

The government expects to return to the normal process for early years funding in January 2021.

The full guidance can be found here.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and ‘free entitlement funding’

Government guidance – Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care – states that private early years providers should only furlough employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if the following conditions are met:

  • the employee works in an area of business where services are temporarily not required and where their salary is not covered by public funding.
  • the employee would otherwise be made redundant or laid off.
  • the employee is not involved in delivering provision that has already been funded (free entitlement funding).
  • (where appropriate) the employee is not required to deliver provision for a child of a critical worker and/or vulnerable child.
  • the grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would not duplicate other public grants received, and would not lead to financial reserves being created.

It adds that where it is not clear if a staff is funded through ‘free entitlement’ funding or private income, then “an early years provider can access the Job Retention Scheme to cover up to the proportion of its paybill which could be considered to have been paid for from that provider’s private income”.

For providers who have not seen any private income return (for example, providers who are still closed), if they receive 40% of their income from government funding, and 60% from other income, the provider can only claim Job Retention Scheme support for up to 60% of their paybill. The guidances states that “this would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary / combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider’s total paybill”. This calculation would be based on the setting’s February 2020 income.

Read the full guidance.

The guidance states:

“If a provider’s average monthly income is 40% from DSG and 60% from other income, the provider could claim CJRS support for up to 60% of their paybill.

“This would be done by furloughing staff whose usual salary / combined salaries come to no greater than 60% of the provider’s total paybill.”

This means that, for instance, if a provider in this example had a monthly wage bill of £10,000, they would only be able to claim Job Retention Scheme support for up to £6000 worth of wages, meaning the maximum support they could receive from government would be £4800 (80% of £6000).

However, if providers have seen some of their private income return as a result of reopening more widely, this needs to be factored into their Job Retention Scheme claim.

Implementing Furlough Leave

How should I select which staff to place on Furlough Leave and which staff to continue working?

You must be careful not to discriminate when deciding who you will offer Furlough Leave to. The Equality Act and the duty to consider the health and safety of individuals will still apply. You should consider the following key points when taking the decision:

  • the business needs of the organisation (i.e. which roles are critical).
  • if staff roles are identical you could ask for volunteers.
  • rotate Furlough Leave amongst employees complying with the minimum three week period (subject to clarification).
  • health or other relevant circumstances of individuals (place those at risk on Furlough Leave first.
  • ensure that sufficient staff are in place to carry on operating.

This is not an exhaustive list.

You should record the reason for your decision and clearly communicate this to staff in an open and transparent manner.

What process do I need to go through to Furlough staff on 80% of their salaries?

You should make sure any process followed is fair and involves consultation with each employee affected. Furlough Leave should not be unilaterally imposed without written consent. In seeking to agree a temporary variation to the contract to place an employee on Furlough Leave, consideration must be given to the following practical steps:

  • check the employment contracts for staff (including short term layoff clauses, consultation requirements and notice periods for changes).
  • discuss the business case for the change with the employee.
  • where there is no provision in the contract to reduce pay, you are required to obtain written consent; (you may be able to impose a reduction in pay in line with the relevant clause within the contract of employment – however, you will still need to deal with the matter appropriately, proportionately and sensitively.
  • you must ensure that the employee’s consent was not obtained by duress and that your communications are propionate and reasonable.
  • where a trade union is recognised for collective bargaining purposes, the trade union should be consulted.
  • place staff on Furlough Leave from an agreed date if you do not have enough work for them or are closing the setting
  • confirm and obtain agreement in writing with affected staff.
  • inform staff that you will keep them updated.

Employment law requirements including consultation obligations and timescales will apply. However, this will be a challenge given the pandemic. Consequently, you should take legal guidance. Alliance members can obtain support from the free legal helpline Law-Call in our member area.

In these extreme circumstances, employees (and any trade unions) may agree to a period of Furlough Leave because the alternative is likely to be redundancies. Where there is no provision in the contract to reduce pay, and the setting is unable to obtain agreement from the employees, then you should obtain legal guidance.

Do we have to top up the pay of a worker on Furlough Leave to 100%?

The guidance makes it clear that this is the employer’s choice and is not compulsory. The decision may depend on the financial circumstances of the setting or organisation as a whole. However, there will need to be a clause in the contract to allow for a reduction of pay in these circumstances. Otherwise written agreement will be required from the employees. Specific legal advice should be sought, if settings intend to apply this top up to only certain groups of staff as this could lead to direct or indirect discrimination.

We cannot afford to top up our staff pay to 100% during Furlough Leave, what other support is available?

Employees, whose income has fallen, may be eligible for other government support such as universal credit, or housing benefit. They may also be eligible for a three-month mortgage holiday.

What process do I need to go through to Furlough staff on 100% of their salaries?

It is unlikely to be a breach of contract to place an employee on Furlough Leave (without their agreement) provided you pay them their full pay, and deal with the matter appropriately, proportionately and sensitively.

This will include:

  • discussing the business case with your employees.
  • placing staff on Furlough Leave from an agreed date if you do not have enough work for them or are closing the setting.
  • confirming in writing.
  • informing staff that you will keep them updated.

Will an employee be entitled to their contractual benefits and to accrue annual leave during Furlough Leave?

Employees will be entitled to continue to receive all of the non-discretionary benefits of their contract, including the right to accrue annual leave, unless they expressly agree to waive these. Statutory holiday, 5.6 weeks per annum and minimum auto enrolment pension contributions cannot be waived and must therefore continue. Where you are seeking to agree to vary any terms and conditions during Furlough Leave you should obtain legal advice.

What decisions will the setting need to make if there is an ongoing financial impact of the pandemic?

Settings will need to decide whether to continue operating or to close. This will be a decision for settings based on their individual business and financial circumstances. Whatever course of action is chosen, employment law requirements must be followed.

I issued staff with notice of redundancy last week, can I re-employ then and place them on Furlough Leave?

Anybody who was on the payroll on 28 February 2020 and has since been made redundant can be rehired and put on the scheme with their agreement. Members should take legal advice from the free legal advice service, Law-Call, to ensure that they follow an appropriate process that will enable them to claim from the scheme.

Does Furlough leave apply to Casual Workers?

Technically no. However, you will need to consider the work pattern of individuals to understand whether they are truly casual workers. Further clarification should be sought from your legal advice service.

Can staff be furloughed multiple times?

Employers can place staff on furlough more than once – and one period can follow straight after an existing one. The minimum length of a furlough period is three weeks.

Employers will be able to bring employees back to work for any number of times and for any shift pattern (‘Flexible furlough’). For example, an employee could be brought back for two days a week, with the furlough scheme covering the other three.

To introduce this scheme, the government is closing the old Job Retention Scheme to new entrants on 30 June. Employers wanting to place new employees onto the scheme will need to do so by 10 June.

From 1 July, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for the hours not worked.

Can I ask furloughed staff to complete tasks remotely?

You cannot ask staff to do work for your setting once they have been furloughed. Staff can volunteer to do some tasks for your setting – but they cannot do anything that creates revenue or provides a service.

This means that staff may be able to volunteer to complete essential training courses remotely or stay in touch with families by posting information on Facebook, for example.

However, they cannot be asked to complete tasks such as providing lesson plans to parents or remotely offering services such as story time via Skype.

The intention is that staff will no longer be doing their job while on furlough.

If they are required to do any training courses or other services, they will need to be paid the National Living or National Minimum Wage for any time spent on this – even if this means that they are paid a higher rate than they would be through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Ofsted

You can keep up to date with any updates from Ofsted here.

What should I do if my setting is due to have an Ofsted inspection during the outbreak?

Ofsted has temporarily suspended all routine inspections due to the outbreak, and intend to resume full inspections in January 2021, and are keeping the exact timing under review.

However, Ofsted has confirmed that it will be carrying out a phased return to inspection, starting with an interim period of visits during the autumn term. Its guidance states:

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

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

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

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

If we are struggling with staff absences can we relax staff ratios?

Ofsted has advised the Alliance that the EYFS section 3:30 allows for the relaxation of ratios in exceptional circumstances, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made. As the coronavirus outbreak is an exceptional circumstance, there is no need to notify Ofsted to minor changes to ratios. However, no official guidance is yet available on this. We are in contact with Ofsted and will provide an update to the sector as soon as formal guidance becomes available.

What should we be communicating with Ofsted?

Ofsted wants providers to let them know if you are opening or temporarily closing.

Ofsted has been working with the DfE and local authorities to find out which early years providers, including childminders, are currently open or temporarily closed, to see there is sufficient and accessible childcare in place to support vulnerable children.

Ofsted may contact providers to ask you about your setting and plans for the future.

Please check that this email comes from an @ofsted.gov.uk address before responding as soon as you can.

If your operating circumstances do change (you open or close), notify Ofsted by sending an email to enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field. In the body of the email, please confirm the unique reference number for each setting and the details of the change.

You can find your URN on your registration, your inspection report and on your Ofsted reports page.

Will Ofsted publish the report of my recent inspection?

Ofsted had said that they would publish those reports only when providers reopen as normal for all children. However they are now writing to all providers with reports in the pipeline to ask whether they would like their report published as soon as possible. If they say yes, Ofsted will publish their report shortly.

Can I delay payment of my Ofsted fees?

Ofsted invoices for annual fees issued from 3 April 2020 will now have a due date of 30 September 2020, so that you have freedom to delay your payment during this time. Your annual fee date will not change.

Other questions

If parents’ income changes due to the impact of Covid-19, are they still eligible for the 30 hours entitlement?

Parents who are normally eligible for the government’s childcare offers will continue receiving the entitlements during the summer term if their income levels fall due to the impact of coronavirus.

The Government has announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to COVID-19. Subject to Parliamentary approval, parents who are critical workers will also remain eligible for these entitlements if their income has increased over the maximum threshold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the guidance here

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.”

Can I delay paying my fees to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)?

If your renewal date is coming up and you are unable to pay your fees please get in touch with their registration department as soon as possible, so that they can make a note against their registration and see if they are able to stop the payment being taken, if you pay by direct debit. Once the current situation is over, the ICO will contact you to seek payment and it will be back-paid to your original renewal date.

Finally…

Our FAQs are not an exhaustive list of points for consideration. This is a new and fast-changing situation for providers and the wider sector. For this reason, you should seek legal advice (Alliance members can access free legal advice as part of their membership, contact details are available in the members’ area).

We are also seeking further clarification from the DfE on a number of areas to ensure we are completely clear about implications for employers and employees. We will continually update these FAQs on our website as new information or further guidance is made available.

While many employers will be pragmatic, we know that they will work hard to protect the interests of their employees.

Any employer should be aware that if they fail to follow employment law requirements, their actions could potentially result in employment claims.

Government financial support

Government guidance — operational

Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance for the charity sector

Guidance to help with running your charity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Read the guidance here

Guidance to manage financial difficulties in your charity caused by coronavirus, including closure:

Read the guidance here

Early years and childcare closures

This guidance covers Ofsted-registered childcare providers for children of all ages, including childminders, nurseries and wraparound childcare and clubs (before- and after- school and holiday care). This guidance does not cover nannies or au pairs, as they work in the child/children’s family home.

The following question and answer based guidance should be read alongside the guidance on critical workers and vulnerable children.

Coronavirus (Covid-19): early years and childcare closures

Implementing Social Distancing in Education and Childcare Settings

This guidance is for education and childcare settings that are remaining open to support vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. It should be read in conjunction with guidance for social distancing.

Guidance for education and childcare settings on how to implement social distancing

Communicating with families and the community

Preparing for a local lockdown

Local lockdowns in Leicester, Greater Manchester and Lancashire remind us that the virus is still a clear and present danger and that the government will impose local restrictions quickly where the evidence shows it to be necessary.

In the worst-case scenario, going back into lockdown is likely to affect the morale of staff who have worked so hard to create a safe environment, and parents who have made the big decision to send their child back but now find they are not eligible for a prioritised place.

In this blog post, Melanie Pilcher outlines measures you can take and things you should be communicating to parents and families if infection rates start to creep up in your area.

Read the blog

Conducting visits to settings in times of social distancing

How can early years providers welcome and connect with prospective parents in these times of social distancing, staggered start times and strict guidance?

Richard Knight from the Early Years Alliance North of England Service Hub has some tips in this blog post.

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How to do settling-in sessions during the coronavirus outbreak

The common settling-in process might involve lots of short visits and play sessions so that parents, carers, practitioners and child can all get to know each other and share that all-important information before the child starts with you.

But it is inevitable that just like everything else, settling-in sessions will need to look different in this new way of life we are all adjusting to.

Read our blog post which is full of tips and ideas of how to settle in children in these times of social distancing.

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Playing and learning at home

The Early Years Alliance has produced a variety of resources to help families continue their children’s learning and development at home during the summer months.

There are more than 100 videos of songs, rhymes, activity sessions and children’s cooking sessions plus videos specifically to help parents nurture their children’s development.

Please feel free to share the link with your families.

Watch the videos

Some inspiration…

Maureen Dyroff from Jack and Jill Pre-school in Oxfordshire shared how her team has been keeping in touch with their families during lockdown. They have been sending useful information and weekly themes and activities to continue the learning through the EYFS, through their electronic record keeping system. They also post on their facebook page.

Maureen also shared this lovely poem that one of her staff wrote – a really personal way of sharing some activity ideas while maintaining connection between children and their key workers.

Download the whole poem here

Talking to children about coronavirus

It is inevitable that even very young children will pick up on the levels of anxiety around them about the virus, even if they do not fully understand the context of the current situation.

Therefore, it is important that early years practitioners respond to any concerns that children express in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner.

Parent fees

The government has published guidance for parents in which it says on the issue of parent fees during closures:

“We are asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents”.

The full government parent guidance is available here. 

Social media

As with any widespread infection that could pose a threat to their children, parents may be understandably concerned.

Social media and word-of-mouth in a community can sometimes be a source of misinformation, particularly if you hear of cases of coronavirus locally.

You can reassure parents who are worried by sharing up-to-date information and advice from reliable sources.

While you will probably have your own social media policies in place, it would be sensible to advise any staff – whether working or furloughed – to refrain from sharing sensitive information online which may cause undue distress or unnecessary concern.

It is important to note that any content shared on social networking sites could potentially end up in the public domain, even if it appears to be ‘private’ or is on a closed profile or group.

Your staff should always be aware of wider implications of sharing such information in their personal networks.

Useful links

Blogs

Preparing for a Covid-19 local lockdown

By Melanie Pilcher, Quality and Standards Manager at the Early Years Alliance

Since 1 June, childcare providers have been able to welcome back children of all ages.

A further step forward on 20 July saw the requirement to keep children in small consistent groups, or bubbles, lifted. This in turn enabled more children to be cared for so long as the provider was able to minimise mixing within settings.

Of course, there have been many challenges associated with wider opening.

Parents and early years practitioners have understandably been cautious and have needed reassurance that it is safe to return to their early years setting.

Providers have gone to great lengths to instill confidence by demonstrating how they are following government guidance and taking all precautions to keep everyone safe.

The actions that have been put in place to minimise the risk of transferring the infection have become routine in many settings as children, parents and practitioners adapt to a new way of doing things.

Local spikes could happen at any time

For a while it felt like we could be cautiously optimistic that things were starting to settle down as we focused our attention on reassuring parents and practitioners that early years is ‘open for business.’

We have always been warned of the possibility of a ‘second wave’ of infection, but despite this, the first official local lockdown being imposed in Leicester in July this year following a jump in the number of confirmed cases, came as a real blow to businesses in every category.

Early years and childcare providers found themselves having once again to implement restrictions, including only offering prioritised places and sometimes having to re-furlough staff where they were eligible to do so.

Since Leicester there have been several ‘spikes’ in infection rates in areas that could at any time see themselves in local lockdown.

This reminds us that the virus is still a clear and present danger and that the government will impose local restrictions quickly where the evidence shows it to be necessary.

In the worst-case scenario, going back into lockdown is likely to affect the morale of staff who have worked so hard to create a safe environment, and parents who have made the big decision to send their child back but now find they are not eligible for a prioritised place.

For the foreseeable future everyone must continue to implement all precautionary measures detailed in the government guidance on early years closures, but must also be prepared to rewind where local circumstances dictate.

Being prepared – increased infection rates in your area

Monitor regional news and local authority websites for information about ‘spikes’ in your area. Be alert to suggestions that a local lockdown or further restrictions may have to be considered.

Where this is the case there are some actions you can take immediately with the aim of staying open until you are told otherwise:

  • Have early discussions with parents to alert them to the possibility that you may be advised to limit places available i.e. for key workers and vulnerable children. Check status of parents and children accordingly.
  • If you have the capacity while maintaining your current numbers and staffing levels, reintroduce bubbles where it is practical to do so.
  • Remind everyone of hygiene measures and limit play activities and equipment that may increase risk of transmission.
  • Take all other enhanced precautions as previously undertaken during national lockdown.
  • Promote and encourage test and trace to parents and staff where this is available.
  • Communicate with landlord or School (if on school site) to agree measures to keep setting open if local lockdown is likely.
  • Communicate with other users in shared premises to negotiate measures required to keep operating service where other users/community groups may have to close.

Local lockdown or local restrictions are announced

If there is a significant increase in infection rates in your area, the government and relevant local authorities will act together to control the spread of the virus.

More information on the affected local areas will be made available on the local lockdown page on Gov.uk where there will be separate and differing guidance for each local area affected.

As an example, here is the guidance for Leicester and here is the guidance for affected areas in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

How best to organise settling-in sessions during the Covid-19 outbreak?

By Richard Knight – Early Years Service Officer at the Early Years Alliance

When children are starting at a new childcare setting or with a childminder, each provider will have their own settling-in policy and might approach the process differently. There will usually be similarities however and some of the procedures will be familiar.

Most nurseries, pre-schools and childminders will agree there is usually a two to four-week settling-in period.

But how do we do this now during the ongoing pandemic, when we need to socially distance in order to keep everyone safe?

Different life – different ways

The common settling-in process might involve lots of short visits and play sessions so that parents, carers, practitioners and child can all get to know each other and share that all-important information.

But it is inevitable that just like everything else, settling-in sessions will need to look different in this new way of life that we are all adjusting to.

All children cope with change and new experiences in their own way, and some do better than others.

It is important to consider this transition and value that it is a time when families and key persons need to work together in partnership to meet children’s new needs.

Childcare providers are working hard and thinking creatively to develop dynamic ways to make the settling-in process as personal as possible in these somewhat changed times.

Meeting up

Prior to children starting at new childcare, it is still crucial to ‘meet’ with the setting manager or childminder to discuss children’s details, and for the child to spend time with the key person in some way.

So how best to do this?

By appointment — Some providers are looking at using the end of August or very early September to have a series of days before the children officially start back, opening the doors by appointment only so children can come in for a 1:1 meeting with their key person and explore their new play and learning environment. This is proving a popular idea with some and leaders are booking families in for multiple 20-minute sessions in some cases.

Picnics and outdoor sessions — Other settings are thinking about picnics and sessions with new families in the grounds before they come back in September. Obviously, these meetings are planned in order to keep numbers low and practice social distancing.

Using outdoor space — Provisions that have been open every day, including the holidays, have seen new children start during this time. Making the most of the outside space has been the key to success for them. Parents and carers are bringing children into the outdoor play area, where key persons will take over and join the children to say, ‘see you soon’ and wave families off. This has been working to good effect so far.

On the doorstep — Another way to meet new families is to do doorstep visits to all the new starters’ homes. This is so far proving successful for those providers who have tried this idea out.

Do the groundwork

All About Me form — Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are still providing new families with their versions of ‘all about me forms’ to gain as much background information as possible. This is then being followed up by a lengthy telephone call with them.

Using technology — Recording and sending out virtual video tours to new parents is working well for some. Others are inviting new starters to video calls to meet existing peers and key persons. Lots of providers are using video conferencing platforms to have virtual settling-in sessions. It’s a great way for parents, children and staff to meet up and exchange information while keeping completely safe.

Online story time — Key persons can do a story time at the open setting while new starters due in September can watch the session through a smartphone or tablet at home.

Social media and websites — Use of social media and websites has never been greater. Providers can easily upload video clips and pictures onto the sites for new families to look at as often as they want. This way children can become more familiar with the people and the environment if it is not an option to have a face to face visit. Conversations can happen about the pictures and videos between children and parents.

A surprising and positive result

The reason for doing this preparatory work is to build up to a stage where parents and carers can leave children with practitioners at the front entrance – keeping in line with guidance that parents cannot enter the building.

After initial worries about how the children would cope without parents physically coming into the environment – many providers are reporting that children have actually settled in quicker than before and keypersons are noticing how resilient children are.

Case study

Embsay with Eastby Pre-school Playgroup in North Yorkshire:

“We invite new families into our setting to visit and have a look around when all the other children have gone home for the day. These after-hours visits are working well for us and it means we can meet children face to face and lots of information can be shared between us and the parents and carers.

“We social distance and the settling-in visits only happen one family at a time.”

“We also follow strict cleaning and hygiene practices to ensure the setting is a safe place. We are hoping to prepare a virtual tour clip for our website soon.”

www.embsaypreschool.co.uk

Conducting visits to settings during the Coronavirus outbreak

The pressure on providers to boost occupancy is greater than ever. But how can settings welcome and connect with prospective parents in these times of social distancing, staggered start times and strict guidance? Richard Knight from the Early Years Alliance North of England Service Hub has some tips.

Everything is changing rapidly for nurseries and childminders during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are all developing new ways of working, looking at how we can best communicate and deliver our services during these difficult times.

While adjusting to the ‘new normal’ practitioners, managers and families all have lots of questions – from practical ones about children starting in September to being unsure about visiting a potential new setting.

More emotional questions might come next where providers and parents have concerns about how children will settle into new surroundings, make friends and bond with their key person.

How best to look around?

Starting at nursery, pre-school or with a childminder is a big deal and often where formal education starts. But how can parents choose a childcare setting without being able to have a good look round at local providers first?

Live video tours:

With a steep rise in the use of IT during lockdown, many of us are relying heavily on technology both socially and professionally to keep connected.

And it is technology that can help get providers and families together ahead of the new academic year.

Video tours are being used by lots of providers to really good effect.

You’ll need to provide parents with a ‘booking system’ where they can arrange a time to have a live virtual show round.

Often simply filmed on mobile phones using a video conferencing platform, it is a really easy way to showcase the setting. It is a good idea to show the set-up both inside and outdoors, just like what would happen if a family came to have a look. The video call can be saved and shared with interested parents and carers.

This can be an effective way of doing things because the parents’ questions can be asked and answered as you go round during the video call.

Virtual tour:

Alternatively, you could record and post a virtual tour of your setting on your websites or social media home pages. Again, it can work really well to help give the parent a sense of the atmosphere of a setting which is what so many families go on – that initial gut feeling.

Wherever you post the virtual tour, post it with a message with contact details so parents can get in touch with you after the viewing to talk about things further.

You can suggest arranging a video meeting with families to discuss new children starting. Scheduling one-to-ones with parents to discuss further will also provide a nice personal touch.

Take a look at this virtual tour produced by the Bees At The Hive Pre-school in Peterborough

https://youtu.be/aFyGa7DZZc0

After-hours tours

Many settings are offering a visit for parents and children after hours, one family at a time of course. This can be reasonably straight forward especially if you are on reduced hours. Parents need to understand not to touch anything, and if the child happens to pick up toys, it’s not such an issue to clean them immediately afterwards. Lots of providers are doing this, some even on a Saturday morning!

Meeting outside

Meeting in the garden is an option, out of hours even better. Meetings and discussions can happen on site and at a safe distance. Using outside space for this means families can ask all the important questions they have and have an opportunity to meet some of the staff team.

Be inspired by estate agents

Another top tip is to look at how estate agents are overcoming the problems with house viewings. Many are spacing appointments out much further to allow more time for social distancing and to clean down where needed between viewings. Similar strategies could be used by providers when families want to visit.

And don’t forget…

…The phone! Once a parent has visited in person or via video, don’t forget to let them know that you are available on the phone to talk through concerns, outline routines and new ways of working. Knowing they can speak to someone will provide reassurance to parents who are worried.

Case study

“We are offering visits after operational hours (so at 6pm) asking only one parent to attend if possible. Doors are propped open so they don’t need to touch handles etc, they are asked to sanitise on their entry and then not touch anything as we go round.

“We have had children attend after hours with their parents and obviously they love to touch new things so we’ve just cleaned anything they’ve touched after. It’s working well for us but we have a good open setting for it, our other sites are having to do it a little different and be creative!

“Therefore, we are also offering virtual show rounds by sending a video of our setting to perspective parents.”

Kaleidoscope Nursery in Leeds.

FAQs: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and early years funding

Full guidance:

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Job Retention Scheme is a government scheme where employers can apply for a government grant to cover a proportion of the monthly wages for furloughed employees. Furloughed employees are staff who are still employed, but not currently working.

More general information about the scheme is available here.

Who can access the Job Retention scheme?

The scheme only applies to settings who employ staff. This includes nurseries, pre-schools and childminders who employ assistants.

If you are a childminder with no staff, you will receive support from the government via the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, not the Job Retention Scheme. More information on that scheme is available here.

I receive government funding. Can I furlough staff?

If your setting only receives government funding, and has no private income, you will be unable to furlough staff members. This is because your staff wages are already being fully funded by the government via the early entitlement scheme.

If your setting only receives private income, and receives no government funding, you will be able to furlough any staff members you choose to and receive 80% of their monthly wages via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If you receive a mix of government funding and private income, which most providers do, then the amount of government support you can claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will vary depending on what proportions of your ‘usual’ income come from government early entitlement funding and from private income.

The government has said that providers should use their income in February 2020 to represent their ‘usual income’.

What can I do if I am unable to furlough employee/s?

If you, the employer, cannot access the Job Retention Scheme Grant, due to receiving no private income in February, then there may be the possibility of reducing staff wages from your own funds.

My setting receives both private income and early entitlement funding and hasn’t seen any private income return yet. How do I calculate how much support I can get for furloughed staff wages?

The proportion of your wage bill that you can claim wage support against is the same as the proportion of your usual (February) income that comes from private sources (i.e. not government funding).

For example, let’s say a setting received £10,000 in income in February. £4000 (40%) of the total monthly income came from government funding and £6000 (60%) came from private income.

This means that, under the new guidance, the setting could only apply for wage support on up to 60% of its wage bill.

Let’s also say that this setting has total monthly staff wage costs of £7,000. The setting should then calculate 60% of £7,000, i.e. £4,200. This is the maximum value of wage costs that Job Retention Scheme support can be applied against.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that the setting would receive 60% of £7,000 via the Job Retention Scheme. It means that only 60% of £7,000 (i.e. £4,200) would be eligible for government support via the scheme.

This means that the government could pay 80% of £4,200 via the Job Retention Scheme – that is, £3,360.

To claim this, the setting would need to identify staff whose monthly wages add up to £4,200, and then apply for Job Retention Scheme support for these wages.

I have calculated how much of my wage bill is eligible for Job Retention Scheme support, but no combination of staff wages comes to exactly the same amount. What happens to the ‘leftover’ wage?

Let’s say the setting in our example, which has a total monthly paybill of £7000, employed seven employees, each earning £1,000 per month.

We have already established that this setting can only furlough employees whose combined salary comes to no more than £4,200 (60% of the total paybill).

This would mean that the setting could only furlough four members of staff, with a combined salary total of £4,000.

This is because furloughing a fifth member of staff would take the combined salary total of £5,000, more than the limit of £4,200.

The setting would not be able to claim 80% of the leftover £200 as this does not equate to the full wage of any member of staff.

As such, when calculating how much support your setting is able to receive via the Job Retention Scheme, it is important that you base this on actual staff wages to get an accurate picture of the level of support you will receive.

What happens if the amount of government funding we receive changes?

The government guidance states that if a provider receives additional early entitlement funding as a result of, for example, providing additional hours of childcare, the provider would need to:

  • recalculate what percentage of its ‘usual’ (February) income this new level of funding would represent
  • work out what percentage of its usual income is therefore now accounted for by private income
  • reapply the steps outlined above.

For example, if the setting in our example saw its early entitlement funding increase to 55% of ‘usual’ income, then this would mean that private income now accounts for 45% of usual income.

This means that the setting would now only be able to claim Job Retention Scheme support against 45% of its total monthly wage bill.

As the setting’s wage bill is £7,000, this would mean that the setting could claim support against 45% of £7,000, which is £3,150.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the setting would receive £3,150 from government via the Job Retention Scheme. It means that £3,150 worth of staff costs would be eligible for government support via the scheme.

This means that the government could theoretically pay 80% of £3,150 via the Job Retention Scheme – that is, £2,520.

However, as each staff member at this setting earns £1,000 a month, in reality, it would mean that the setting could furlough three members of staff, and receive 80% of their combined wages (80% of £3,000 i.e. £2,400) via the Job Retention Scheme.

If, however, the setting’s ‘free entitlement’ funding went down to 30% of their ‘usual’ income, then the setting would now be able to claim Job Retention Scheme support against 70% of its total monthly wage bill.

As the setting’s wage bill is £7,000, this would mean that the setting could claim support against 70% of £7,000, which is £4,900.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the setting would receive £4,900 from government via the Job Retention Scheme. It means that £4,900 worth of staff costs would be eligible for government support via the scheme.

This means that the government could theoretically pay 80% of £4,900 via the Job Retention Scheme – that is, £3,920.

However, as each staff member at this setting earns £1,000 a month, in reality, it would mean that the setting could furlough four members of staff, and receive 80% of their combined wages (80% of £4,000 i.e. £3,200) via the Job Retention Scheme as furloughing a fifth member of staff would take the combined wage bill to £5,000, which is more than the limit of £4,900.

I have reopened my setting and some of my private income has returned. Will this impact how much I can claim for using the Job Retention Scheme?

Yes. Government guidance on how early years providers should claim for Job Retention Scheme funding states that “providers should use the month of February 2020 to represent their usual income, in calculating the proportion of its salary bill eligible to be covered by the scheme, taking into account parent-paid income that has returned.”

Let’s look again at our previous example of a setting that received £10,000 in income in February. £4000 (40%) of the total monthly income came from government funding and £6000 (60%) came from private income.

When that setting was closed, they could apply for Job Retention Scheme support against 60% of their wage bill.

If, however, they have now reopened and, say, half of their private income has returned, then the proportion of their wage bill that they could claim support again would be halved as well (to 30%).

One way to calculate this would be to say:

How much of my normal parent income hasn’t returned, and what is this as a percentage of my normal (February) income? This is the proportion of the setting’s wage bill that is now eligible for Job Retention Scheme support.

So, in our example, the setting’s normal income is £10,000, with £6,000 from private income and £4,000 from public income.

If half of the setting’s normal private income has private income has returned, this means that the other half (£3,000) is still “missing” or yet to return.

£3,000 as a percentage of £10,000 is 30%, so this confirms that the setting can now claim Job Retention Scheme support on 30% of their salary bill.

What will be the impact of using February income to represent our ‘usual’ income given that this is a short month and also includes a half-term?

In additional guidance published on 28 April, the DfE confirms that providers should initially use February 2020 to represent their ‘usual’ income when calculating the proportion of their salary bill that can be covered by the scheme – this is “to provide the closest ‘usual’ month before any coronavirus-related closures or absences”.

The guidance adds that where local authority payments are termly, providers should “calculate on the basis of the income which could reasonably be attributed to February from their full termly payment” adding that “local authorities will need to inform providers of an indicative termly budget share for this purpose if they have not already done so”.

It also states that “where income and outgoings were artificially affected by half-term, providers should apply average income/costs across the 3 non-half-term weeks to the whole month”.

When applying for the Job Retention Scheme you need either a UTR or CRN or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer reference. As a charity pre-school we do not have those references. What should I do?

Where an organisation has a CT UTR, SA UTR or CRN, they must enter it when making a claim. For those entities such as charities that don’t have one or more of those references, they should enter “no” into each of those fields and they will be asked for their employer name, which they must then enter. The HMRC guidance says:

You also need to provide either:

  • your name (or the employer’s name if you’re an agent).
  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference.
  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference.
  • your company registration number.

Early entitlement funding in the autumn term 2020

The Department for Education has shared its plans for early entitlement funding for the autumn term 2020 and beyond.

The guidance states that local authority funding for the 2020 autumn term will be based on the January 2020 census data. The DfE says that this is in recognition of the fact the number of children attending settings may not have returned to normal levels by January 2021.

From the autumn term local authorities will be expected to continue funding providers who are open “at the levels they would have expected to see in the 2020 autumn term had there been no coronavirus outbreak”. They should also continue to fund providers which have been advised to close, or “left with no option but to close, due to public health reasons”. Local authorities are not expected to fund providers which are closed “without public health reason”.

The DfE intends to fund settings “as if autumn term 2020 were happening normally”. To do this, local authorities should use the numbers of children in places in the previous autumn term to inform funding levels this autumn.

In “exceptional circumstances” local authorities will be able to “redirect early years dedicated schools grant from providers that are closed” to ensure that there is childcare available for key worker families and vulnerable children.

The DfE guidance also encourages local authorities to consider increasing the frequency of payments to providers from termly to monthly to allow for adjustments as providers reopen.

The government expects to return to the normal process for early years funding in January 2021.

The full guidance can be found here

EYFS changes in the coronavirus crisis

EYFS changes in the coronavirus crisis

Temporary changes to the EYFS came into force on 24 April 2020 and are scheduled to last throughout the coronavirus crisis.

 The changes will be reviewed on a monthly basis. Providers will be notified when the period ends via official government channels.

 Early Years Alliance quality and standards manager Melanie Pilcher explains the temporary changes to the EYFS during the coronavirus crisis.

If early years providers are concerned about whether a child is eligible for a place either as a vulnerable child or as the child of a critical worker, they should refer to the criteria stipulated by following the links given in the guidance.

The guidance further elaborates the role of local authorities to work with providers to ensure there are enough places for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children by coordinating provision for children where their usual setting is closed.

The DfE launched a new data collection process on 6 April to gather information from local authorities about which children are accessing childcare and whether there are enough places available.

In some cases, a provider may have concerns about a child they consider vulnerable, but who is not yet receiving support. Providers have the flexibility to use their professional judgment in discussion with their local authority as to whether they should offer a place in such circumstances.

The guidance also reminds providers that eligibility for the early years pupil premium, or the disadvantaged 2-year-old entitlement should not be determining factors in assessing vulnerability.

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

The government has decided that educational staff do not require PPE. This will no doubt cause concern for many providers, but they should be reassured that the PPE they currently use in their day-to-day running, such as gloves and aprons for nappy changes and dealing with bodily fluids, remain essential.

The rigorous hygiene practices that are already established in an early years setting, including hand hygiene, will continue to provide an effective level of protection where no symptoms are present.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The EYFS still applies, however, there are some areas which have been further clarified in response to FAQs as follows:

Ratios

Ratios remain the same for private, voluntary and independent early years providers. Exceptions can be made during the crisis, as the EYFS already allows for changes to ratios in exceptional circumstances (3.30). Providers should ensure that they keep the safety and well-being at the heart of any decision to reduce their ratios during Covid-19 and use “reasonable endeavours” to ensure that at least half of their team holds at least a relevant L2 qualification to meet staff:child ratios – although this will not be a legal requirement.

A risk assessment approach will help providers to determine whether they can operate safely. Where this is not the case, they should speak to their local authority to discuss options such as sharing provision or merging with other settings.

Providers that have remained open during the crisis may need to get back to full staffing levels once the period of temporary changes has ended. For these providers, there will be a transitional period of up to two months, where the relaxed requirements around qualification levels will be allowed to continue.

DBS checks

These are still required for new staff (3.11). If an application had been made but the DBS disclosure has not arrived, new staff and volunteers can still care for children as long as they are supervised by someone with a DBS check.

Under no circumstances can an unchecked member of staff be left alone with children. We have received several queries from the sector about the portability of DBS checks during this time so it is reassuring to have had clarification that where a worker is already engaged in regulated activity and has the appropriate DBS check, there is no expectation that a new check should be obtained for them to temporarily move to another setting.

The onus remains on the receiving setting to satisfy themselves that the appropriate checks. This could also include seeking clarification from the existing employer.

Learning and development

Early years providers should use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to meet the existing learning and development requirements, instead of this being something they ‘must do’. Providers should tailor their curriculum, or educational programmes, to what is appropriate to the children currently in their care. This will involve ensuring that children continue to be supported to learn and develop in an environment that meets their needs.

Progress check for two-year-olds

The progress check at age two will not need to be undertaken during the coronavirus period. Once your setting has reopened fully, you should carry out the check on children who are still within the two- to three-year-old range. This will form part of the summative assessment that the Alliance recommends is done for all children, regardless of whether they are returning or have continued to attend as a prioritised place.

In the meantime, practitioners can hold true to the purpose of the progress check by seeking help for any children whose progress and development give them cause for concern.

EYFS Profile

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) has been suspended for this year only. Schools are free to complete EYFSP assessments if they are able. Information shared by your setting in support of a child’s transition to school is still of great value, maybe more so, as a summative assessment of the child’s experiences and the progress they have made in their learning and development during lockdown is vital information.

First aid

Paediatric first aid requirements (3.25) remain in place for children below the age of 24 months. However, if children aged between two- and five-years-old are being cared for, providers must use their “best endeavours” to ensure one person with PFA is onsite when children are present. If this is not possible, providers must carry out a written risk assessment and ensure that someone with a First Aid at Work or emergency PFA certification is on site at all times when children are on the premises. New entrants (L2 and L3) will not need to hold a PFA certificate within their first three months in order to be counted in staff:child ratios.

If a practitioner is unable to renew their first aid certificate for reasons directly related to Covid-19, the validity of current certificates can be extended by up to three months. This applies to certificates expiring on or after 16 March 2020.

Providers will need to be confident that where certificates have expired they have plans in place to update them asap once the crisis is over which may be a challenge as first aid training is not always easy to access and is likely to be oversubscribed once the restrictions are lifted.

Social distancing

The government has made available additional guidance to help ensure that the risk of virus spread for both staff and children is as low as possible. Settings that remain open should:

  • Tell children, parents, carers or any visitors such as suppliers, not to enter the setting if they are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Consider how children arrive at the setting and reduce any unnecessary travel on public transport.
  • Ensure group sizes reflect the numbers of practitioners available and are kept as small as possible.
  • Stagger lunch and snack times to reduce large groups of children.
  • Discourage parents from gathering in their lobby/entrance area.
  • Try to follow the social distancing guidelines.

Social distancing is a difficult concept in an early years setting. You may want to consider:

  • Suspending circle time activities, or working with fewer children so you can space floor cushions/mats 2m apart.
  • Changing the layout of your sleep/rest area so that cots or sleep mats are at least 2 metres apart.
  • Open out or stop using areas that are usually enclosed i.e. book corner or dens.
  • Suspend activities such as sand and water play or cooking that pose a higher risk of cross-contamination.
  • In addition to increased hand hygiene, wash children’s hands for at least 20 seconds when they arrive at the setting and before they leave.

Read the full statutory guidance: Early years foundation stage: coronavirus disapplications

Operating during lockdown and beyond

Frequently asked questions on the reopening of early years provision

The Department for Education has asked early years providers in England to reopen for children of all ages.

We have produced the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide below to help as many questions as we are able to at this time. This FAQ will be regularly updated as we get more information and clarification from the DfE.

The information below is primarily based primarily on the Department for Education’s Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

NB: The below information is accurate as of 17th September 2020.

Do I have to reopen my provision?

No. The government has confirmed that it is “asking” providers to open, 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 online in a document called ‘Overview of scientific advice and information on coronavirus’.

 

Are out-of-school clubs, including 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.”

Do we need to keep children in small groups or ‘bubbles’?

Registered early years providers are no longer required to keep children in 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.

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.

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 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 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 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 setting do attend more than one setting, the DfE have 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.”

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

How can we minimise contact with parents and carers?

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

It adds that: “Settings should consider providing virtual tours for prospective parents and carers wishing to visit the setting for September admissions.”

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.

Can early years staff get tested for coronavirus?

Yes. As key workers, any early years staff who are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus can get priority testing for free. More information is available here.

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).”

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-isolateif they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus symptoms or someone who tests positive for coronavirus.

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.”

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”.

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 10 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”.

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.

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.”

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 is preferable to public transport.”

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.”

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 continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, government guidance still currently states that staff members who are clinically vulnerable – for example, those with diabetes, or who have mild-to-moderate asthma – should be supported to observe social distancing by carrying out roles that can be done from home, such as session planning. If this is not possible, they should be offered roles that allow them to stay two metres away from other people wherever possible. If this isn’t possible, then providersmust carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk”.

Government guidance also still states that staff members who are clinically extremely vulnerable – such as those with specific cancers or with severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis – are not expected to attend work and that staff in this category “should work from home where possible”.

We are currently seeking clarity from the DfE whether this guidance will be updated in line with the latest changes to advice on shielding.

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?

The guidance on reopening states that staff who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, can attend their education or childcare setting.

However, staff who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should “only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to.”

However, as of 1 August, shielding advice for all adults and children will pause on 1 August, subject to a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). As such, we are currently seeking clarity from the DfE whether this guidance will be updated in line with the latest changes to advice on shielding.

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 on 1 August, 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”.

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

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’.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.”

Previous references to limits of two households (or six people if outdoors) have now been removed from this guidance.

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 – see a list of individuals this might apply to.”

For baby and toddler groups and other similar community groups operating outdoors, the government’s ‘Meeting people from outside your household’ guidance states that while people should only be socialising in groups of up to 2 households indoors and outdoors or up to 6 people from different households when outdoors, they can “meet in larger groups for weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies and services, community activities and support groups – which should be limited to no more than 30 people and subject to COVID-19 secure guidelines”.

The Department for Education has confirmed that while children attending registered early years settings are still not expected to socially distance, the requirement for people from different households to socially distance at baby and toddler groups and other similar groups does apply to children as well as adults.

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 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”.

Can I / we have external providers 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”.

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.”

Are early years students still allow 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.”

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.”

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.”

As the government has restricted gatherings of more than six people in outdoor public places, this means that, as it stands, “small groups” can be no more than six in total. However, in light of wider government guidance stating that larger gatherings are allowed in certain circumstances such as work and childcare, the Alliance is seeking urgent clarity on this point with the Department for Education.

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.

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.

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 have 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.

Recent updates

Ofsted releases guidance on interim visits

Ofsted has published some new operational guidance regarding interim visits from inspectors to registered early years providers from 1 September 2020. Interim visits are not inspections and will not result in an inspection grade, however inspectors can use regulatory or enforcement actions, if appropriate.

Read the guidance here

Updated guidance on supervised toothbrushing programmes in early years settings

The wet brushing model is no longer recommended during the COVID-19 recovery phase as it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry brushing.

Read the guidance here

Updated guidance for out-of-school providers published

The Department for Education has published new guidance for out-of-school providers operating in the autumn term.

Updates made to the ‘Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings’ guidance state that when schools reopen in September, out-of-school providers 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.”

The full guidance is available here.

COVID-19 early outbreak management

Guidance has been published to support early years settings to manage potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

The full guidance is available here.

DfE updates rules on EYFS disapplications

The government has updated its guidance on the temporary changes (or ‘disapplications’) to the EYFS introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes originally came into force on 24 April 2020 to “allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe” during the outbreak.

The Department for Education had previously confirmed 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 now announced 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.

The full Department for Education guidance is available here.

What to do if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus

The Department for Education has published a new guidance document for early years providers which outlines what to do if a child at a setting or provision displays symptoms of Covid-19.

The guidance includes an immediate action list, plus advice on what steps to take if the child tests positive for the virus.

The guidance is available here.

A guide to submitting Spending Review representations for early years providers

The Comprehensive Spending Review is a large-scale review of government spending which takes places every three years.

The next Spending Review is due to take place in autumn 2020 and is an opportunity to ensure that the early years receives the financial support it needs to remain sustainable over the coming years.

The Treasury is current accepting written submissions, or ‘representations’, from individuals, businesses and organisations on what its spending priorities should be over the next three years.

In response, the Alliance has developed the below guide to submitting a representation to support early years providers who wish to do so.

Submit your representations here 

The deadline for submissions is 24 September 2020

Top tips for your submissions

  • Keep it brief: the officials dealing with representations will be reading a high volume of submissions, so it is useful to keep yours concise and to the point.
  • Make sure it is evidence-based: the more facts and figures you can use to support your argument, the better. If you are talking about underfunding, explain how much it costs to deliver a place and how this compares to your funding rate. If you are operating at a loss, say exactly how much of a loss, and over what period. The more specific you can be, the better.
  • Be clear: not everyone has a detailed understanding of the early years sector and how it operates, so be as clear as possible in your language, and try to avoid any jargon and acronyms that someone outside the sector might not understand.

An example of how to structure your representation

Overview of your setting or provision

Introduce your setting, providing key details such as:

  • the name of your provision (if applicable)
  • where you are based
  • how long you have been operating
  • how many children you offer places to and of what ages
  • what funded entitlement offers you deliver, if any
  • any particular areas of support you offer e.g. do you deliver care to a high number of children speaking English as an Additional Language, or children with SEND? Do you offer any unique support to local families?

Before coronavirus

  • Explain the financial position of your provision before coronavirus: were you making a profit, breaking even or operating at a loss (provide as much specific detail here as possible)?
  • If you were operating at a loss, explain why: is this due to a lack of early entitlement funding? If so, how much was the shortfall, and what impact did this have on your provision.

Impact of lockdown

  • Outline the impact of lockdown on your provision.
  • If you stayed open for key workers and/or critical children, how much did your occupancy reduce by and what was the overall impact on your provision.
  • If you temporarily closed, what costs did you continue to incur and what was the overall impact on your provision.
  • What wider impact did lockdown have on your provision – for example, the inability to market your provision via tours, the cancellation of fundraising events etc
  • What impact did the timing of lockdown (i.e. the summer term) have on you – is this when you would normally have highest occupancy?
  • Did you use any government schemes e.g. Job Retention Scheme, continuation of early entitlement funding, business grants etc
  • If you did use these schemes, what impact did these have?
  • Were there any schemes you were unable to access, or could access but not fully? If so, what impact did this have on your provision?

Post-lockdown

  • If you have opened more widely since the easing of lockdown, what occupancy levels are you seeing? Is it better or worse than expected, and what impact is this having on the financial position of your setting?
  • What financial impact has operating in a pandemic had on your settings – such as additional cleaning costs, PPE, operating with ‘bubbles’ if you are doing so.
  • Outline any new challenges you are facing and the financial impact this is having on your setting – for example, delays with coronavirus testing leading to staff absences.
  • Explain what the next six months is likely to look like without any additional government support.

Conclusion

Outline what you would like the government to do to support your setting and the wider sector in:

  • a) the short-term (i.e. the next six month) to ensure your provision can survive the coronavirus pandemic
  • b) the long-term (i.e. the next three years) to ensure that your provision can remain sustainable over this period.

Early years providers, outdoor trips and the new ‘rule of six’

Early years providers can take children out on trips to public spaces, such as the park, in groups larger than six, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.

According to the DfE, 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 years 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” .

They added 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.”

We understand that official DfE guidance will be updated shortly to confirm this position.

Use of cars for outings

The DfE has also confirmed that early years providers are permitted to take children on outings using their cars, assuming it can be done safely, stating: “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.”

New guidance on local lockdowns published

The Department for Education has published new guidance on local lockdowns for early years providers, schools and colleges.

The guidance states that “in local areas where restrictions have been implemented for certain sectors … education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all“.

It 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.

Childcare to be exempt from interhousehold mixing restrictions in local areas of intervention

Childcare to be exempt from interhousehold mixing restrictions in local areas of intervention Informal childcare and caring arrangements will be allowed to continue across the nation, the Health Secretary has announced.

Find out more.

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