Coronavirus: EYFS requirements and ratios to be relaxed

Catherine Gaunt
Thursday, April 16, 2020

Early years settings will no longer be required to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS or staff:child ratios, in temporary measures to be put in place during the coronavirus outbreak.

The planned temporary changes are included in updated Department for Education Covid-19 early years guidance.

All proposed changes to the EYFS require emergency legislation, so are subject to parliamentary agreement.

Further guidance is due to be issued before the end of April subject to parliamentary agreement of the relevant legislation. Until then, the current EYFS continues to apply.

The DfE said it is monitoring the availability of provision, including for NHS staff closely. If critical workers do not have access to their usual childcare place, they should contact their local authority to arrange an alternative.

The guidance also urges childcare settings to be reasonable and balanced in their approach to parents’ fees, given the great uncertainty they will also be facing.

The proposed temporary variations to the EYFS include:

  • removing the need to complete the two-year-old progress check;
  • exceptions to the qualification levels required in order for staff to be counted in the ratio requirements, including using 'reasonable endeavours' to ensure that at least half the staff (excluding the manager) have Level 2; and
  • providers will not be required to meet the existing learning and development requirements during the coronavirus outbreak, but should use 'reasonable endeavours' to do so.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said, Nurseries, childminders and all other early years settings are playing a vital role in this country’s response to the coronavirus by supporting critical workers and parents of vulnerable children with continued childcare.

We are committed to supporting them to do this, which is why we intend to temporarily change some of the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, relieving burdens on hardworking staff while also ensuring settings can maintain quality and safety, which must always be prioritised.

Alongside this, we have put in place a significant package of financial support for our early years settings including continued funding for the free childcare entitlements.’

Below, we have summarised some key changes to the Covid-19 guidance for early years settings.

The guidance includes updated introductory sections and sections on Who this guidance is for, Prioritising children, Funding, Staying open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, Early Years Foundation Stage and Holidays.

Prioritising children

'The DfE launched a new data collection process on 6 April to gather information from local authorities on the status of early years and childcare settings in their area. This is to ensure that DfE has up-to-date information on available early years and childcare provision during the COVID-19 outbreak, which children are accessing it and if there are sufficiency issues in particular areas. All local authorities have received information on the data collection process.'

Do early years and childcare settings need personal protective equipment (PPE)?

'The scientific advice indicates that educational staff do not require personal protective equipment. This is needed by medical and care professionals providing specific close contact care or procedures that create airborne risk, such as suctioning and physiotherapy, for anyone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) and is displaying symptoms.'

Resources

'We recognise that many settings have already shared resources for children who are at home and are grateful for this.

We want to support parents and all early years and childcare settings to ensure children’s early learning can continue. Available support includes:

  • a list of online educational resources which have been identified by some of the country’s leading educational experts to support learning at home
  • the BBC enhancing its education provision to include daily lessons starting from 20 April 2020

Hungry Little Minds

BBC’s Tiny Happy People'

 

Funding

'We urge all childcare settings to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents, given the great uncertainty they will also be facing.

We will not be clawing back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures. This protects a significant proportion of early years settings’ income. The Government has also introduced a range of measures, as outlined above, to support businesses and employees during this period. We will be keeping what further support businesses may require under close review.'

 

EYFS

'Will there be any temporary flexibility on the requirements within the EYFS statutory framework in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

We are listening to the sector on the challenges faced in providing safe and quality care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We are planning to amend regulations that would allow for the temporary lifting/modifying of a small number of requirements within the EYFS statutory framework, giving settings flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand while ensuring children are kept safe. The proposals, subject to parliamentary agreement, are:

  • settings will not be required to meet the existing learning and development requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak but should use reasonable endeavours to do so
  • settings will not be required to undertake the progress check at age 2 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  • ratio requirements will remain as set out in the EYFS with the flexibility that already exists for exceptional circumstances. In addition, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak exceptions can be made to the qualification level that staff hold in order to be counted in the ratio requirements. Settings should use reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least half of staff (excluding the manager) hold at least a full and relevant Level 2 qualification to meet staff:child ratio requirements, but this will not be a legal requirement
  • new entrants (levels 2 and 3) will not need to undertake a Paediatric First Aid course within their first 3 months in order to be counted in staff:child ratios during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period
  • in maintained nursery schools and nursery classes in maintained schools caring for children aged three and over, settings should use their reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least one member of staff is a school teacher. Where this is not possible settings should follow requirements applicable where there is not someone with a suitable level 6 qualification working directly with the children (i.e. there must be at least one member of staff for every eight children, at least one member of staff who holds at least a full and relevant level 3 qualification and providers should use their reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least half of other staff hold at least a full and relevant level 2 qualification).'

Should early years and childcare settings, including childminders, open over academic holidays even if they do not usually?

'Where possible, we would encourage early years and childcare settings and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout academic holidays. Local authorities and early years settings should decide, in consultation with the parents of children who are currently attending early years settings, whether it is necessary for this to include bank holidays.'

What happens if your setting is having difficulty opening over academic holidays?

'Contact your local authority if your setting needs support in making these arrangements.'

When will staff take holiday?

'We understand that this is a very difficult time for early years and childcare staff, and we are asking a lot of them to help the country fight this virus. We know that settings will make sensible decisions on staffing and what breaks will be needed, but we are asking settings, wherever possible, to maintain provision for children of workers critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and vulnerable children over bank holidays and half term.'

  • The updated guidance is available here

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