DfE updates guidance on wider opening for early years and childcare providers


The Department for Education has updated guidance for early years and childcare providers, including confirmation that from 1 June, childminders can look after children of all ages, in line with their current Ofsted registration, and within usual limits on the number of children they can care for.

Acorn Nurseries: 'Very happy children in all our nurseries so far. Here’s Poppy explaining how to stay safe from the virus by washing hands "really long" and keeping away from it in her "pink angel flying boots" ' Twitter
Acorn Nurseries: 'Very happy children in all our nurseries so far. Here’s Poppy explaining how to stay safe from the virus by washing hands "really long" and keeping away from it in her "pink angel flying boots" ' Twitter

Previously childminders, who had not stayed open for keyworker or vulnerable children, could only look after children of one other household.

The guidance, updated on 2 June, includes two new sections on:

Attendance setting out principles of attendance, what to do if demand for places is high and whether children can attend two settings.

Safeguarding and welfare including child protection policies, how to keep children safe online, considerations for children’s mental health and wellbeing and provisions for children with SEND.

Main changes to previous guidance

Attendance

This includes information on main principles, vulnerable children, wha happens if a child’s usual provider is closed, what settings should do if the demand for places is too high, whether children can attend two different settings

The following principles will apply to the wider opening of settings:

  • children should not attend if they have symptoms or are self-isolating due to symptoms in their household
  • all children who normally access childcare are strongly encouraged to attend so that they can gain the educational and wellbeing benefits of early education
  • vulnerable children continue to be encouraged to attend where it is appropriate for them to do so (for children with education health and care (EHC) plans this will be informed by a risk assessment approach), further details on vulnerable children can be found below
  • children who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions have been advised to shield and should not attend
  • children who are clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). Few if any children will fall into this category, but parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category
  • children who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, can attend settings
  • children who are too young to be able to understand and adhere to instructions on stringent social distancing and live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding are advised not to attend a setting

Settings should be mindful that many parents may be anxious about sending their child back to childcare. Clear communications with parents regarding the measures being taken to ensure the safety of their children will be necessary, including the role that they play, as parents, in the safe operating procedures.

Settings should consider how to ensure communications are accessible to specific groups of parents (e.g. parents with English as an additional language) and parents of vulnerable children, so as to encourage attendance of these groups.

 

What should settings do if the demand for places is too high?

If the demand for places is higher than the setting’s capacity when protective measures are in place, it may be necessary to have a temporary cap on numbers of children attending the setting. Solutions might involve working with the local authority to support children attending a nearby setting on a consistent basis. If necessary, settings should prioritise providing places to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, then 3 and 4 year olds, in particular those who will be transitioning to Reception in September, followed by younger age groups.

Can children go to two different settings?

Children should attend just one setting wherever possible and parents should be encouraged to minimise as far as possible the number of education and childcare settings their child attends. Childminding settings should consider how they can work with parents 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.

Safeguarding and welfare

The safeguarding and welfare sections of the EYFS still apply, including requirements relating to child protection arrangements. Settings should work closely with local authorities.

 

Is it necessary for settings to update their child protection policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

Settings should consider whether any refresh or review of their child protection arrangements is needed in light of coronavirus (COVID-19). This could take the form of a coronavirus (COVID-19) annex and include:

  • how to identify and act on new safeguarding concerns about individual children as they return to childcare
  • DSL (and deputy) arrangements
  • any updated advice received from the local safeguarding partners
  • any updated advice received from local authorities, for exampleEHC plan risk assessment, attendance and keep-in-touch mechanisms
  • working arrangements with children’s social workers and the local authority virtual school head (VSH)
  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a staff member or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children
  • how the updated policy links to the broaderrisk assessment to be conducted before opening, described in the guidance on actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening

All staff and volunteers should be made aware of the new policy and be kept up to date as it is revised.

What do settings need to consider with regards to children’s mental health and wellbeing?

Staying at home for a prolonged period and the change of routine may have caused difficulties for some children, such as changes in behaviour or mood.

As more children return to settings, settings should consider the mental health, pastoral or wider wellbeing support children may need, including with bereavement, and how to support them to transition into the setting after a long period of absence.

Settings may want to refer to the following advice as a starting point: guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff may require appropriate instruction and training on identifying and supporting vulnerable children and parents that return to the setting, for example by sign-posting them to appropriate local services such as mental health, domestic or substance abuse services. Providers should contact their local authority to understand what support is available.

It will be necessary to consider how vulnerable children, who are currently attending settings, continue to have their needs met and to be supported as the setting takes on more children.

What provisions should be made for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND)?

Particular care will be needed in planning for children with SEND to return to their settings. Re-adjustment to the routines in a setting may prove more challenging for some children with SEND than others, and consideration and planning will need to be given as to how support children to settle back into their setting.

Settings should be alert to the fact that there may be children with additional or worsened social emotional and mental health needs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), and that there may also be children who have fallen further behind their peers as a result of time out of childcare settings, or missed diagnosis as a result of a period of absence.

Settings will need to ensure they have the staffing needed to support children with SEND at safe ratios and that they have a member of staff designated as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), interim SENCO or a named individual with oversight of special educational needs provision for children with SEND.

We have temporarily modified the duty on local authorities and health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the special educational or health provision specified in EHCplans, so that they can discharge this duty by using their ‘reasonable endeavours’. The duty on early years’ providers to cooperate with the local authority in the performance of its SEND duties remains in place during this period. Further information is available in the EHC needs assessments and plans guidance.

Updated responsibilities in light of wider opening

‘We understand that it may not be possible for all settings to open more widely or re-open at this time. Childcare settings should work together with local authorities to agree the provision needed locally to support the needs identified. Settings may wish to make arrangements with other settings to reduce the number of children in their care, if a large number of children want to attend. Settings are expected to be flexible and work together where required.

‘In some cases it may be necessary for settings to introduce a temporary cap on numbers, to ensure that children are kept in small groups, and to avoid mixing of children between groups. If this is necessary, settings should prioritise vulnerable children and children of critical workers, then 3 and 4 year olds, in particular those who will be transitioning to Reception in September, followed by younger age groups.’

Where significantly reduced numbers of children are attending, we understand that shared provision through early years hubs and clusters is in place in some areas.

Please see guidance on cluster and hub provision, including early years.

Will it be mandatory for all registered childcare settings to open in some form?

‘No. We are asking settings to open more widely so that more children can be welcomed back. We understand however that some settings may be unable to open, especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages due to self-isolation and sickness, or particularly low levels of demand. Local authorities will work with local settings to determine the best way to ensure sufficient childcare.

‘Settings should try to be as flexible as possible for parents and carers who work shifts or atypical hours and especially for parents who are critical workers.’

Local authorities’ responsibilities

What actions should local authorities consider to monitor and manage their local early years markets?

‘Local authorities should continue to work with all their early years providers to monitor and manage their local childcare market.

‘Local authorities should develop an understanding of any gaps in childcare supply, as well as the barriers individual providers are experiencing, where they might temporarily be unable to open more widely or reopen (if they have been closed).

Where needed, local authorities can manage the wider market flexibly to ensure that there is sufficient childcare provision; continuing to prioritise places for vulnerable children and children of critical workers, followed by 3 and 4 year olds, and then younger age groups. This may include:

  • moving children between providers where one provider has closed, and another has empty dedicated schools grant (DSG) funded places
  • operating through clusters and hubs to maintain educational provision; or, if necessary
  • using early years DSG block contingency budgets, where local authorities have them, or uncommitted central spend in the early years budget

In exceptional circumstances, and when all other options have been exhausted, local authorities may consider using their flexibility to redistribute funding for the free early education entitlements in a clearly focussed and targeted way from providers who have closed, to those who are open and caring for eligible children where necessary during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This should still only be done in order to secure childcare for the children of critical workers, and for vulnerable children, where their usual arrangements are no longer possible. Further information can be found in the guidance on the use of free early education entitlements funding.

 

Funding

Updated content on funding including early years entitlements funding, clarification that nurseries which are eligible for charitable status relief are not eligible for small business grant funding, Competition and Markets Authority and insurance 

‘Nurseries in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief will benefit from small business grant funding of £10,000 (note that nurseries which are eligible for charitable status relief are not eligible for small business grant funding).

‘Local authorities will need to ensure there are sufficient childcare places at this time, and to redistribute funding across settings accordingly – in a clearly focused and targeted way. This ability to redistribute free entitlement funding in exceptional circumstances will enable local authorities to ensure that critical workers, including NHS staff, are able to access childcare where they need it. Any setting which sees their early entitlement funding reduced, in order to fund childcare places elsewhere, may be able to increase the proportion of their salary bill eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in line with guidance on financial support for education, early years and children’s social care.

‘For childcare providers which have a policy that covers government-ordered closure and unspecified notifiable diseases, the government’s social distancing measures may be sufficient to allow businesses to make a claim against their insurance, provided the other terms and conditions in their policy are met.

‘The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules require insurers to treat customers fairly, including handling claims fairly and promptly; providing reasonable guidance to help a policyholder make a claim; not rejecting a claim unreasonably; and settling claims promptly once settlement terms are agreed. The government is working closely with the FCA to ensure that the rules are being upheld during this crisis and fully supports the regulator in its role and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and members have agreed a set of principles for handling claims to support and provide clarity to customers.

‘Customers who feel they have not been treated fairly should first make a formal complaint to their insurer. If they do not feel that their complaint has been dealt with satisfactorily, they can refer the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service, who can also help small businesses with turnover below £6.5 million.

‘However, businesses that have not purchased the appropriate level of cover should seek assistance through the government’s wider support package if they are in financial difficulty. This includes measures such as business rates holidays, small business grants, and the CJRS.

Public liability insurance

‘Public liability is not compulsory, and some nurseries may have chosen not to purchase this cover. For those who have, some existing public liability policies may have been written or adjusted during the term of the policy (where permitted) to exclude coronavirus (COVID-19) risks, and some insurers may choose to exclude coronavirus (COVID-19) when offering public liability policy renewals. Nurseries should check the terms and conditions of their public liability insurance policies and consult with their insurance providers and brokers to determine their coverage for coronavirus (COVID-19). It is worth noting that different insurers may take a different view, therefore nurseries are encouraged to shop around to seek the most suitable cover at the best price.

‘For general advice on insurance matters (not on specific policies) including those related to coronavirus (COVID-19), ABI can be contacted by phone on 0207 600 3333 or email at info@abi.org.uk.

 

Infection control

Updated content on infection prevention and control summarising relevant guidance, including use of small groups, protocol on visits by essential professionals.

Considerations for settings

Revised section on considerations for settings which replaces the old section on prioritising children with new content on the use of community centres and before and after school clubs; additional materials included on supporting home learning; content removed on critical workers

Updated content in EYFS section on paediatric first aid certificates

What happens if staff need to renew their paediatric first aid (PFA) certificates?

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 by up to 3 months. This applies to certificates expiring on or after 16 March 2020. If, exceptionally requalification training is still unavailable, a further extension is possible to no later than 30 September 2020. If asked to do so, providers should be able to explain why the first aider hasn’t been able to requalify and demonstrate what steps have taken to access the training. Employers or certificate holders must do their best to arrange requalification training at the earliest opportunity.

More information

The DfE said the guidance, Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak, should be read alongside the following guidance:

Guidance on infection prevention and control

Guidance on funding

Other relevant guidance

 

 

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