FAQs - Coronavirus

Unsurprisingly there have been thousands of questions asked in recent weeks and months about the impact COVID-19 will have on your childcare business. Remember that the Department for Education, Ofsted, and other government departments are producing guidance and FAQs about COVID-19 which may help. 

The Department for Education in England helpline can help to answer questions related to education about COVID-19. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday by calling 0800 046 8687 or emailing DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk. PACEY members can contact the legal helpline for advice.

We've collated the most frequently asked questions and grouped them by theme. 

Vaccinations and accessing tests 

As an early years or childcare practitioner, am I eligible to receive the vaccine under the JVCI’s social care worker category?

This applies to all early years or childcare practitioners including childminders and nannies.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the NHS have confirmed that early years and childcare practitioners are not included in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) current priorities for the vaccine unless they provide care for clinically extremely vulnerable children. The NHS are using the categorisation of social care that has been published by the JCVI.

The NHS has recently updated its definition of clinically extremely vulnerable (see FAQ section 'Being open, staff and parents' for further information) so you should check this even if you have previously done so.

 

I have an appointment booked – should I cancel?

If you booked an appointment and you don’t fit the criteria detailed in the previous question you have been asked to cancel your appointment as you are likely be turned away at the vaccination service. This will help to ensure that someone in the eligible cohort doesn’t miss out on an appointment.

But when I phoned 119 the operator told me I was eligible?

Last week (w/c 8 February 2021), when people in the JCVI’s social care cohort were allowed to self-refer for an appointment, the NHS vaccination system did include childcare and early years practitioners in error and make appointments for them. This system has now been amended to reflect the fact that childcare and early years practitioners are not eligible for vaccination as part of the social care workforce (unless they are caring for clinically extremely vulnerable children).

Will I get fined for booking my vaccine if I am not eligible?

DHSC has confirmed that childcare or early years practitioners who do not fit the criteria detailed in the first question of this section but have already received their vaccine will not be fined.

I have already received my first dose of the vaccine – will I still get my second dose?

PACEY has asked DHSC to ensure that individuals who have received their first vaccination will receive their second dose within 12 weeks. As soon as we have confirmation of this from government, we will update our FAQs.

What are the different types of coronavirus tests?

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests check for the genetic material of the virus. These tests are sent off for processing at a lab

Lateral flow device (LFD) tests detect antigens produced by the virus and give a result within 30 minutes. The government encourages all settings to use LFD tests to identify asymptomatic cases that would otherwise go undetected.

Where can I access asymptomatic (LFD) home tests?

The Government’s rapid asymptomatic testing programme in education has been expanded to include staff in early years and childcare settings, as well as their household, childcare and support bubbles.

PVI nurseries and pre-schools will begin to receive LFD testing kits from 11 March for staff to take home for twice weekly testing, to be used from 22 March.

Department for Education guidance on the use of LFD home tests can be found here

All childminders and nannies will now be able to access asymptomatic twice-weekly testing by either:

• Attending a test site to get tested where they will be able to see how to take the test or pick up tests to do at home. Find your nearest test site here or check your local council website.

• Attending a collection site to collect tests to do at home (you can obtain two boxes of seven tests). Find your nearest collection site here:

Ordering tests online (you can order one box of seven tests for home delivery).

My occupation is not showing as eligible on the online test ordering system

When ordering test kits online, not all related occupations (including childminders and wraparound childcare providers) are listed as eligible in the service. DfE is aware of this technical issue and hopes to resolve this by Thursday 25 March. Please continue to order kits in the meantime even if the wording online suggests that you are not in scope.

What do I do if myself or a staff member tests positive using a LFD rapid test?

The LFD test will give a result in around 30 minutes. Staff must report their result (whether positive, negative or void) to Test and Trace as soon as the test is completed either online or by telephone as per the instructions in the home test kit. If your rapid test result is positive, you should self-isolate immediately (failure to do so could result in a fine). You should then request a PCR test to confirm the result as soon as possible, and continue to follow the ‘stay at home’ guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection. The PCR test must be taken within two days of the positive LFD test result (those working in childcare and early years are eligible for priority access to PCR testing). If the PCR result is negative this ‘overrides’ the rapid test result and the staff member can return to the early years setting. 

We are awaiting confirmation on the reporting process for childminders to keep a record of their test results. 

Some people may be eligible to receive a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment if told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

What happens if the LFD test result is negative?

A negative result means the test did not find signs of coronavirus and you can continue attending the early years setting. But this does not guarantee you do not have coronavirus, so you should continue to follow the coronavirus protective measures: regular handwashing, social distancing and use of a face covering where recommended.

What happens if a school-aged child tests positive from their LFD rapid test taken at school or in the home?

If a pupil or student received a supervised school-based or at-home LFD test, as part of the rapid asymptomatic testing programme, and it was positive then they and other members of their household must self-isolate and a follow-up PCR test should be requested to confirm this result. This is because these tests are not conducted in a controlled environment and will not have trained staff on hand. A confirmatory PCR test should be booked online or by calling 119. Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the pupil or student and their close contacts should self-isolate. If the PCR test is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and a child can return to school.

Please note: This is an update to previous guidance which was to request a PCR test only if the LFD test was done at home. Now according to DHSC policy the location of the LFD test is irrelevant; if the LFD test result is positive, you have to request a PCR test to confirm this.

How do I get a test for Coronavirus if I am isolating or have symptoms?

Testing is available for people of all ages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes:

  • for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • for someone you live with, if they have symptoms
  • if you live in England and have been told to have a test before you go into hospital, for example, for surgery
  • if you live in in an area where there are coronavirus outbreaks

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should order a free NHS PCR test either to be used at home or at a dedicated testing site. This test is different to the LFD tests which are used to detect asymptomatic cases.

Access to priority testing

As a key worker in England, you and members of your family should be able to access priority PCR testing via the government’s employer referral scheme for essential workers. Registration for this portal has now closed.

Roadmap out of lockdown

What is the roadmap out of lockdown?

From 8 March, people in England will see restrictions start to lift and the government’s four-step roadmap offer a route back to a more normal life. Please note the below is a brief overview, access the full roadmap breakdown.

Step one – from 8 March

  • All children and students can return to face-to-face education in schools and colleges.
  • Childcare and children’s supervised activities can also resume where necessary to enable parents to work or engage in similar activities.
  • People can leave their home for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble, if they are eligible for one, or with one person from outside their household.

Step one – from 29 March

  • This is when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays so outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people or 2 households will be allowed.
  • Outdoor facilities such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools, will be allowed to reopen. People will be able to also take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
  • The ‘Stay at home’ rule will end of 29 March however, people should continue to work from home where possible, avoid travel at the busiest times. Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons.

Step two – no earlier than 12 April

  • Opening of non-essential retail, personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres.
  • Gyms will reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups).
  • Outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks and drive in cinemas.
  • Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
  • Hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors without curfew but with table service – wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

Step Three – no earlier than 17 May

  • Government will look at continue to ease limits on seeing friends and family
  • Legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
  • Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply.
  • Indoor hospitality will reopen but customers must order, eat and drink while seated.
  • Indoor locations will begin to open up, such as cinemas and children’s play areas, the accommodation sector including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.
  • Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues and outdoor venues will be allowed, with limits on capacity

Step Four – no earlier than 21 June

  • Hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact
  • Reopening remaining premises, including nightclubs and ease the restrictions on large events and performances that apply in step 3.

Read the full roadmap breakdown

Who can attend my setting from 8 March?

Since January 2021, early years settings including childminders in England have been open to pre-school children throughout lockdown as well as school age children if they are vulnerable or their parents are critical workers.

From the 8 March, early years settings including childminders, nannies and nurseries can provide care for all children. This includes caring for primary and secondary pupils from 8 March as part of wraparound care.

For primary and secondary pupils the guidance makes clear that wraparound can only be delivered for children whose parents are working, looking for work, studying or needing support to attend essential appointments. You know your parents best, you will know why the school age children you care for need childcare so use this to be certain you are delivering this care within the spirit of the new guidance.

 

Can children attend multiple settings? How should parents/children be travelling to the setting?

If a child usually attends more than one setting, 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. However, where a child routinely attends more than one setting on a part time basis, you should encourage parents and carers to work through the system of controls collaboratively with you to address any risks identified and allow them to jointly deliver appropriate care for the child.

Children, parents, carers and staff may use public transport where necessary, but we encourage them to walk, cycle or scoot to and from the setting, wherever it is possible and safe to do so. Where children, parents, carers and staff need to use public transport, they should follow the safer travel guidance for passengers.

Children, parents, carers and staff may use public transport where necessary, but we encourage them to walk, cycle or scoot to and from the setting, wherever it is possible and safe to do so. Where children, parents, carers and staff need to use public transport, they should follow the safer travel guidance for passengers.

s to do the best to minimise any risks.

I am a nanny, can I continue to work?

Yes, guidance states that there are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household and this includes for work, including working in other people’s homes where necessary, such as nannies.

Dealing with symptoms and isolation

If a child or member of staff develops Coronavirus symptoms at my setting, what do I do?

If anyone in the setting becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow COVID-19 guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’, which sets out that they must self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19). Other members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 10 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.

If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door with appropriate adult supervision. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should be taken to a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.

PPE must 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). More information on PPE use can be found in the Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.

As is usual practice, in an emergency, call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Anyone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

Any members of staff who have helped someone with symptoms and any children who have been in close contact with them do not need to go home to self-isolate. However, they must self-isolate and arrange for a test if they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should arrange a test), if the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive or they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser after any contact with someone who is unwell. The area around the person with symptoms must be cleaned with normal household disinfectant after they have left to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. See the COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home guidance.

You can take a look at our downloadable flow chat in the reopening toolkit to support you with this process. Public Health England have also produced some useful action cards for education settings outlining what settings should do to manage a possible outbreak.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of Coronavirus at my setting?

After following the instructions outlined in the previous question. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting where the confirmed case was, will be able to access a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus, and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation, provided no other member of the household has become symptomatic. Settings do not need to request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation
 

If someone in your setting or household has tested positive for Coronavirus, as of 17 September, you should contact the DfE’s helpline and you will then be directed to the dedicated NHS advice team for settings with confirmed cases. This new service can be reached by called DfE’s existing helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting the option for reporting a positive case (option 1). The line is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The advice service (or PHE local health protection team if escalated) will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice, and work through a risk assessment to identify close contacts.

This includes:

  • direct close contacts - face to face contact with an infected individual for any length of time, within 1 metre, including being coughed on, a face to face conversation, or unprotected physical contact (skin to skin)
  • extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected individual
  • travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with an infected person

To support the team of advisors in supporting the setting, government 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

This should be a proportionate recording process. Settings do not need to ask staff to keep definitive records in a way that is overly burdensome.

Further detail and advice can be found here. You can also download our Coronavirus flow chart in the reopening toolkit. Public Health England have also produced some useful action cards for education settings outlining what settings should do to manage a possible outbreak.

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. Please go to the Ofsted and EYFS section of the FAQs for more information.

In the vast majority of cases, settings and parents and carers will be in agreement that a child with symptoms should not attend the setting, given the potential risk to others. In the event that a parent or carer insists on a child attending the setting, the setting can take the decision to refuse the child if in their reasonable judgement it is necessary to protect their children and staff from possible infection with coronavirus (COVID-19). Any such decision would need to be carefully considered in light of all the circumstances and the current public health advice. Further guidance is available on testing and tracing for coronavirus.

Am I covered by my PACEY PLI insurance if a child in my setting contracts Coronavirus?

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, so long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in government guidance and Public Health England guidance. This guidance is evolving all the time so you should regularly review this and ensure your systems and procedures are up to date.

As always, we would advise you to keep written records of the steps you have taken in your setting to ensure so far as is practicable, that children and any staff you have remain safe in your care. This would include adequate risk assessments and other appropriate measures put in place to avoid the spread of any infections, including COVID-19.  

PACEY is currently developing advice and support for members on how to undertake risk assessment in light of COVID-19 as well as information on other controls you will need to have in place, including reasonable hygiene procedures. We are also regularly monitoring the guidance and advice being issues in England and Wales to ensure members are up to date with any changes.

In the event that a child or member of staff contract COVID-19 whilst at your setting, it will be important to have this documentation to evidence the steps you have taken to ensure safety and compliance with guidelines. This would be key to successfully defending any possible claim.

Read further guidance from the government here and from Public Health England here.

If you are not insured with PACEY, you need to check any requirements with your chosen insurance provider.

As a childminder, a member of my household has to self-isolate due to being a contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus, do I need to close?

This advice applies where a childminder usually looks after children in their own home, and where a childminder’s household member is self-isolating. For example, this may be when a childminder child has been sent home from school, or partner from work. If:

  • Self-isolation is only as a result of coming into contact with a positive case
  • the household member is not showing symptoms of coronavirus
  • the household member does not require a test

As confirmed to PACEY by Public Health England, Department for Education and now in guidance, at this point, a childminder wouldn’t need to close their registered setting.

However the childminder must:

  • ensure they keep open communication with parents and carers of children attending the setting about the self-isolation.
  • Ensure that the household member isolating does not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting.
  • Comply with health and safety law and risk assess the situation to demonstrate that the provision of childcare in their setting is safe and aligns with the systems of control. Further guidance on cleaning can be found in COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
  • put in place proportionate control measures. For more information on what is required of employers in relation to health and safety risk assessments, please see annex A of the guidance for full opening: schools
  • have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are effective, working as planned, and updated appropriately. For example when any issues are identified, or when there are changes in public health advice.

If there are challenges in ensuring the affected family member stay separated from the children being cared for, mitigations must be put in place and evidenced. For example, if possible the isolating family member should use a separate bathroom. If the isolating family member has to use a shared bathroom or other communal areas, these must be thoroughly cleaned after every use, remembering that the child isolating must not have any contact with the children being cared for in the setting.

At the time of the incident within the school, Test and Trace should activate and it is most likely that you would be contacted by the local health protection team if they felt you needed to close depending on the situation. Don’t forget to keep doing your risk assessments and communicating with parents about what is happening and precautions you are taking. Each situation would be unique and the risk would have to be assessed on a case by case basis by the local health protection teams. For example, if a school had a large outbreak, then it may be necessary for you to close.

Further guidance on risk assessments and keeping children and staff safe can be found in the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak guidance.

Remember, if the child isolating or any other member of the household displays symptoms of Covid-19 during the period of isolation or otherwise, then the setting would need to close at this point for isolation and testing.

A parent of a child in my setting is isolating due to being a close contact, but has no symptoms of Covid-19. Can their child continue to attend?

Generally, if a parent (of a child in your setting) is isolating due to being a close contact to a person testing positive for Covid-19 but is not showing symptoms of Covid-19, the child would still be able to attend the setting because as stated in guidance, the household would not have to isolate at this point. However, if the parent isolating or anyone else in the household presented symptoms of Covid-19, the whole of that household would then need to self-isolate for 10 days.

It’s important to recognise that this is general advice based on the guidance from NHS test and trace here. All childcare businesses and situations are unique and therefore if you still aren’t sure whether that child can come to your setting or whether you’re comfortable with that child continuing to come to your setting, we’d advise that you risk assess the situation and call Public Health England or your local health protection team for additional advice.  

If a child in my setting has a temperature potentially due to getting a vaccination or teething – do they have to isolate and get tested for Covid-19?

As stated in government guidance, “Vaccines may cause a mild fever in children. This is a common and expected reaction, and isolation is not required unless coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected.

Whilst teething can cause some known side effects such as flushed cheeks and sore gums, NHS guidelines state that fever is not a symptom of teething.

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

If coronavirus (COVID-19) is suspected, settings should follow the advice in the system of controls.”

However, please note that every situation is different and as a childcare provider and business owner, it’s important that you risk assess the situation.

What is the NHS Test and Trace app?

NHS Test and Trace has launched the NHS COVID-19 app to help control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Signing up to app is voluntary and can be used if someone over the age of 16 wants to keep an e-diary of the locations they have visited. Then, if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at a venue they have visited, app users get an early warning alert from the NHS. Furthermore, if a user has a positive test for COVID-19, they can register this on the app and it will support contact tracing teams to locate other people who may have been exposed to the virus

Childminders
You should decide how whether you want to use the app yourself and to encourage any staff you may have or parents using your setting to do the same. However, as it is voluntary, you should continue to maintain your usual system of recording visitors to your setting (including any information that will help you contact them if you need to e.g. if there is a potential Covid-19 outbreak at your setting. Whilst guidance makes clear you should minimise visitors to your setting, sometimes you will need to have parents or others visit come into your home. You are not required to use the app to record visitors but, if you wish to do so, you will need to generate a QR code for your setting (information and links to below). 

Nurseries and pre-schools
As a larger setting, you will have a higher number of staff members and visitors so you should consider how the app can be included in your current policies and procedures and encouraging your staff to use the app in their personal lives. Whilst guidance makes clear you should minimise visitors to your setting, sometimes you will need to have parents or others visit your setting. On these occasions you will need to support your staff to understand how they “check in” visitors who are using the app as well as using your usual process for managing attendance and recording visitors to the setting. This is because the app is voluntary so not everyone may be using it. You will also need to consider how the use of mobile phones for this task are managed alongside your current policy on use of mobile phones in your setting.

Nannies
If you are a nanny, you should consider using the app and let your parents know you are doing so.

How to generate a QR code
If you decide to use the app to record visitors to your setting, you will need to create a QR code to display. You then get visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive. You can create your unique QR code here and will need your email address as well as the address of your business to get started. Once you have created the code, you’ll receive your QR code poster by email which can be printed off and displayed somewhere in your setting where visitors can see it and scan when they arrive.

Being open, staff and parents

Will my childminding PLI insurance continue to cover me?

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, so long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in government guidance and Public Health England guidance. This guidance is evolving all the time so you should regularly review this and ensure your systems and procedures are up.​

Can Nannies work? Will PACEY’s PLI continue to cover Nannies to work?

Yes, the government has been clear that paid childcare can be provided, so long as risk assessments are done, mitigations are put in place to reduce the risk of transmission.

If you are a nanny, you should not mix with other nannies and you should maintain social distance where possible from the other household members of the family you are working for. If you are a live-in nanny then you will be classed as a member of that household and not required to socially distance from them. Our information on how to run a childcare setting and reduce the risk of infection includes many relevant points for nannies. You should consider this and access our CPD support as you adapt your practice to support the children in your care.

Your insurance provides liability as long as you are meeting the usual criteria (that is that you only work from the parents’ home and not your own, and that you care for no more than two families’ children) and are providing childcare within the latest guidelines set by the government, which include keeping children within their family home except for very limited purposes.

Nannies who are PACEY members can access our legal advice service for free.

How do I know if I, a member of staff, or child in my setting is clinically extremely vulnerable?

According to the Guidance on Shielding and Protecting extremely vulnerable persons from Covid-19, there are now three ways you, a member of your staff or a child in your setting may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:

  1. You have one or more of the conditions listed in the guidance here.
  2. Your clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded Patient List because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.
  3. You have been identified through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment as potentially being at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.

You will know the children you care for well. You should work in partnership with their parents to identify if their child is classified as clinically extremely vulnerable and seek their support in evidencing this so that you can apply for a vaccination under the current social care criteria. This evidence may be the “shielding” letter the child has from government or a letter from their GP or clinician.

If you or a member of staff fall into any of these categories, you should have been offered a vaccination appointment already or will do so shortly now that the Government criteria on the conditions consider clinically extremely vulnerable has been expanded. If you have any concerns, you should contact your GP or clinician for advice.

If a member of staff, you or a member of your family is clinically extremely vulnerable or pregnant can they work?

From Thursday 1 April 2021, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people are no longer advised to shield. CEV people must continue to follow the national restrictions that are in place for everyone.

Although the advice has changed, it is still recommended that you take extra precautions to protect yourself while the virus is still spreading in our communities. The updated guidance provides practical steps that cover things like socialising, travel and going to work and school. These are not rules but advice, so you can choose whether you wish to follow them or not. You can find the full guidance here.

In addition to this advice, you must continue to follow the regulations that are in place for everyone during the pandemic. This includes rules on mixing with people from other households.

People are still advised to continue working from home where possible, but if people are unable to do so, employers are required by law to take steps to make workplaces COVID-19 secure and should discuss this with their employees.

If a child in my setting is clinically extremely vulnerable, can they attend my setting?

From 1 April 2021, the government will pause its shielding guidance. From this point, all clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend early years provision, school, college, wraparound childcare and out-of-school settings, unless they are one of the very small number of children under paediatric or other specialist care and have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend. If you or any parents have any concerns about welcoming back a child who is clinically extremely vulnerable, you will find some information here .   

Can childminders work with other childminders to look after more children together?

Yes – up to 3 childminders (or a mix of up to 3 childminders and assistants) can work together in the same domestic premises. However, if more than 3 childminders work together they will need to apply to Ofsted to register childcare on domestic premises.

If registered to deliver childcare on domestic premises, 4 or more childminders (or a mix of 4 or more childminders and assistants) can work together in the same domestic premises, which would enable them to care for larger groups of children and still meet ratio requirements.

Further details of requirements for childminders and childcare on domestic premises is available.

How do I support my staff if they are from a BAME community?

Research by Public Health England has identified that Covid-19 presents “a disproportionate risk for people from BAME groups, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions.” Employers should discuss this issue with any staff they have from a BAME community, to understand what, if any concerns, they may have. Take time to talk through what support they may need and to reassure them you have taken the steps advised by Government to reduce the risk of infection. Every circumstance will be different and, if necessary, you can contact PACEY legal advisors free if you are a member.

How do I manage visits to the setting from parents/carers, additional staff, external professionals and non-staff members?

As detailed in government guidance:

“There will be occasions when visits to the setting are necessary, but settings are encouraged to avoid visitors entering their premises, wherever possible.  Visits that allow a vulnerable child to meet a social worker, key worker or other necessary support should continue on site. Visits for SEND therapies should also continue on site.

A record should be kept of all visitors which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.”

Many childcare providers will have a visitor’s book, which is fine for use as long as it contains all the necessary contact information.

Prospective parents and children/new admissions
For new admissions, settings should consider providing virtual tours for prospective parents and carers.

If parents and carers are keen to visit in person, settings should consider:

  • ensuring face coverings are worn if required in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting. While this is not compulsory, this is now recommended by government.
  • there is regular handwashing, especially before and after the visit
  • holding visits after hours. If this is not possible, consider limiting visits to the outside play areas during regular hours, and ensure strict social distancing is observed

Prior to a visit, settings should ensure that parents and carers are aware:

  • of the ‘system of controls’
  • how this impacts them and their responsibilities during their visit
  • how to maintain social distancing from staff, other visitors, and children other than those in their care

PACEY has shared a number of childcare provider’s experiences when settling in new children here.

Parents settling children
Parents and carers are able to enter a setting to help their children adapt to their new environment. Settings should ensure that parents and carers:

  • ensuring face coverings are worn if required in line with arrangements for staff and other visitors to the setting. While this is not compulsory, this is now recommended by government.
  • stay for a limited amount of time (ideally not more than an hour)
  • avoid close contact with other children
  • are aware of the ‘system of controls’, how this impacts them, and their responsibilities in supporting it when visiting a setting with their child

Other visits by parents and carers
Parents and carers should not be allowed into the setting unless there is a specific need and make use of remote visits wherever possible.

Children should be dropped off and collected at the door, if possible.

Guidance on parent and child groups can be found in section 5 of the government guidance.

Guidance on parents and carers coming into the setting for organised performances can be found in music, dance and drama section of the government guidance.

External professionals
In instances where settings need to use other essential professionals such as social workers, speech and language therapists or counsellors, or other professionals to support delivery of a child’s EHC plan, settings should assess whether the professionals need to attend in person or can do so virtually. Visits that allow a vulnerable child to meet a social worker, key worker or other necessary support should continue on site. Visits for SEND therapies should also continue on site.

If they need to attend in person, they should:

  • follow guidance relevant to the setting
  • keep the number of attendances to a minimum
  • wash hands frequently
  • where possible to do so, maintain social distancing
  • be informed about the system of controls in settings
     

Other visitors, recruitment and students
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, a record should be kept of all visitors where this is practical which follows the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

Sessions in settings that use external providers, which are not directly required for children’s health and wellbeing, should be suspended. Guidance on visits from music, dance and drama peripatetic teachers can be found in Section 3.8 of this guidance.

Recruitment should continue as usual. As guidance advises limiting the number of visits wherever possible, it may be appropriate for settings to consider a flexible approach to interviews, with alternative options such as video conferencing.

If needed, settings can continue to engage agency staff and students. They must comply with setting arrangements for management and minimise risk. The presence of any additional members of staff should be agreed on a weekly basis, rather than a daily basis, to limit contacts, where possible.”

How can settings manage activities such as music, dance and drama?

Guidance states that

“it relates to organised group activity, not to spontaneous singing, dance and role-play that young children may naturally do, and should be encouraged to do, by early years practitioners”.

 “Music, dance and drama build confidence, help children live happier, more enriched lives, and discover ways to express themselves. There may, however, be a cumulative risk of infection in environments where organised singing, chanting, playing wind instruments, dance and drama takes place.”

It’s important that early years settings considering the following:

  • Settings should take particular care in music, dance and drama lessons that children remain in their usual groups.
  • Settings should keep any background or accompanying music to levels which do not encourage participants to raise their voices unduly.
  • For organised performances: settings should not host any performances with an audience. Government has published advice on safer singing.

Music, dance and drama peripatetic teachers
When engaging with peripatetic teachers (non-staff who visit settings), a record should be kept of all visits.

Peripatetic teachers can move between early years settings, however, settings should consider how to minimise the number of visitors that attend where possible.

Visitors will be expected to comply with arrangements for managing and minimising risk, including taking particular care to maintain distance from other staff and children. 

To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the premises, and secure best value, settings could consider using longer assignments with peripatetic teachers and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.

If a teacher is operating on a peripatetic basis, and operating across multiple groups or individuals, it is important that they do not attend a lesson if they are unwell or are having any symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • They should maintain distancing requirements with each group they teach, where appropriate.
  • They should make efforts to reduce the number of groups taught and locations worked in, to reduce the number of contacts made

Further information on the Music Education Hubs, including contact details for local hubs, can be found at the Arts Council England Music Education Hub.

Organised music sessions in the early years
With appropriate safety mitigation, singing and wind playing (eg. Playing a recorder) can still take place. Measures to take include:

  • playing instruments and singing in groups should take place outdoors wherever possible
  • if indoors, use a room with as much space as possible, for example larger rooms. Rooms with high ceilings are expected to enable dilution of aerosol transmission
  • if playing indoors, social distance each child 2 metres apart
  • limit the numbers to account for ventilation of the space. It is important to ensure good ventilation. Advice on this can be found in air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak
  • singing and wind playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles
  • position wind players so that the air from their instrument does not blow into another player
  • use microphones where possible or encourage singing quietly.
  • Further information on handling equipment and instruments for organised sessions can be found here.

Individual one-to-one lessons in the setting should only take place with staff based at the setting or be undertaken online with teachers from outside the setting.

How is 30 hours funding currently being managed with parents?

Guidance states “Temporary changes have been made to the 30 hours free entitlement and tax-free childcare offers so that all eligible parents and carers, including critical workers, are not disadvantaged during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

From 1 November, parents who are temporarily not meeting the minimum income requirement for 30 hours free childcare and / or Tax-Free Childcare as a direct consequence of the coronavirus outbreak will be treated as eligible if they would normally meet the threshold and are in receipt of government coronavirus support schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

In your setting

How do I manage activities, in particular malleable materials (messy play)?

For equipment frequently used by staff such as pencils and pens, staff should each have their own items.

Resources such as books, toys and equipment, should be used and shared within consistent groups and cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces.

Where some resources may be shared between groups, for example sports, art and cooking equipment, these should either be:

  • Clean it before it is moved between groups
  • Allow them to be left unused for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics)

Any outdoor playground equipment should be cleaned more frequently than normal. This includes resources used inside and outside by wraparound care and out-of-school setting providers.

Children should limit the amount of equipment they being to the setting each day to essentials such as:

  • Lunch boxes
  • Hats and coats
  • Books
  • Comforters

Where books and other resources may be taken home by the children or staff, unnecessary sharing should be avoided. Strict cleaning routines should be applied to these resources.

 

How do I manage malleable materials (messy play)?

Government guidance states that all planned activities should be risk assessed in light of coronavirus, in conjunction with relevant staff where applicable, and due consideration given to how usual practice may need to be adapted.

Childcare settings should have developed their own hygiene policies to try and reduce the spread of infection. This includes keeping separate towels and flannels for each child as well as regular cleaning of toys and resources. Government guidance includes advice on how to do so.

Settings should risk assess activities that involve malleable materials for messy play such as sand, mud and water, as part of their regular curriculum planning.

A risk assessment should consider whether:

  • materials can be handled by a small, consistent group of children of no more than 15 at a time, and that no one else outside this group can come into contact with it
  • the malleable material for messy play (for example sand/water/mud) can be used and cleaned - including being replaced - in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, where applicable. For example, see managing risk in play provision: implementation guide

Settings should follow the ‘system of controls’ and ensure that:

  • children wash their hands thoroughly before and after messy play
  • frequently touched surfaces, equipment, tools and resources for messy play are thoroughly cleaned and dried before they are used by a different group

Further general cleaning advice can be found in the COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.

Consider and communicate a policy on bringing items and toys from home. This should only be done if absolutely essential and, where this is the case, items should be appropriately cleaned on arrival.

Find more support from PACEY here.

When should PPE/face coverings be used? Where can I get PPE?

When to use PPE:

  • Where an individual child becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at a setting, and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.
  • where a child already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE (for example, nappy changing or first aid), in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.

Guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care provides more information about preventing and controlling infection, how PPE should be used, what type of PPE to use, and how to source it.

Where recommended, use face coverings:

The guidance is clear that based on current evidence and measures that settings are already putting in place, face coverings are not necessary when adults are interacting with children, even where social distancing is not possible.

As it states in government guidance “In early years settings, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff and adult visitors in situations where social distancing between adults is not possible (for example, when moving around in corridors and communal areas). Children in early years settings do not need to wear a face covering.”

Detail on when face coverings are mandatory and the exemptions to this rule can be found here. This includes:

  • children under the age of 11, and also those with disabilities, or hidden health conditions including breathing difficulties, mental health conditions, cognitive impairments, visual impairments or autism. A full list of exemptions is available here.
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
  • Exemption cards (to print and for mobile) are available to download on gov.uk or here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

The DHSC are delivering a ‘one-off drop’ of face coverings from 17 March to PVI nurseries and pre-schools. The deliveries of approximately 450 masks will support contingency stock to ‘ensure maximum compliance with the system of controls’ and are expected to arrive in settings by Wednesday 17 March. Childminders are not included in this offer and should instead supply their own stock of face coverings or obtain these from local nursery or primary school settings.

Education and childcare settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE. Where that is not possible, they should approach their local authority (LA). If the local authority is not able to meet the PPE needs of education and childcare providers, the LA should approach their nearest local resilience forum (LRF) which will allocate stock if it is available once the needs of other vital services locally have been met.

If neither the LA nor LRF is able to respond to an education or childcare setting’s unmet urgent need for PPE, the setting will need to make their own judgement in line with their risk assessment as to whether it is safe to continue to operate.

Read the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care for more information about preventing and controlling infection, including the use of PPE.

Safe removal and disposal of face coverings

Settings should have a process for removing face coverings when staff or visitors who use face coverings arrive at the setting, and when face coverings are worn at the setting in certain circumstances. This process should be communicated clearly to staff and visitors.

Safe wearing of face coverings requires cleaning of hands before and after touching – including to remove or put them on – and the safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Where a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn and the face covering should be replaced carefully.

Further information can be found in face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own

I have a supervised toothbrushing programme in my setting, how do I manage this now?

PHE have confirmed that supervised toothbrushing programmes may be re-established within settings using the dry brushing method.

The wet brushing model is not recommended because it is considered more likely to risk droplet and contact transmission and offers no additional benefit to oral health over dry toothbrushing.

For information on the cleaning and storage of toothbrushes and storage systems, see the COVID-19: guidance for supervised toothbrushing programmes in early years and school settings.

Going outside, care and school runs

Can settings take children outside or on trips? What about insurance? What about meeting up with others?

In line with current coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, DfE continues to advise against undertaking educational day trips.  According to the Government’s roadmap, settings can resume educational day visits no earlier than 12 April 2021.

Settings can take groups of children on trips to outdoor public places for exercise and do not need to be restricted to limits on gatherings, provided that the trip meets the below criteria:

  • The trip being for the purpose of childcare
  • Settings must stay within their bubble and within the EYFS staff child registered ratios,
  • Make sure risk assessments are completed thoroughly in advance
  • Providers must demonstrate in that risk assessment that they can remain socially distant from other groups (2 metres)
  • Thorough handwashing should be maintained throughout as well as before and after the trip
  • The trip is carried out in line with relevant Covid-19 national lockdown guidance and coronavirus secure measures on transport and at the destination
  • Appropriate insurance arrangements are in place
  • Parental permission is obtained (this is in line with PACEY insurers)
  • Adherence to all other hygiene requirements including with the use of any public equipment - read the guidance here (this is in line with PACEY insurers).

Childminders may take the children in their setting to outdoor public spaces (for example parks or local woods) as long as they adhere to industry guidance, and have evidenced the safety of the children in their care as outlined above.

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in national industry guidance from Department for Education and Public Health England. 

If you are a PACEY member and have any questions you can contact the free legal helpline. If you are not insured with PACEY, you need to check any requirements with your chosen insurance provider.

How do childminders manage drop offs and pickups from school? What about insurance?

Childminders and other 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. Where parents can manage drop-offs and pick-ups this should be encouraged.

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. Use of public transport should be minimised. If other children in your care would have to travel with you to do this, please check with their parents first to discuss any concerns. 

Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘systems of controls’ collaboratively, to identify and address any risks and allowing them to jointly deliver appropriate care for the child.

We would encourage providers to work with parents to ensure any children who have to travel from one educational or childcare setting to another are supported to understand the importance of social distancing, regular hand washing etc.

PACEY’s insurers are clear that your insurance provides liability, long as you implement the appropriate steps and actions that are set out in national industry guidance from Department for Education and Public Health England. 

This includes staying within their small group and within registered ratios, making sure risk assessments are completed thoroughly, demonstrating any necessary adjustments, evidencing parental permission and adhering to all hygiene requirements. It is also important that settings continue to not mix groups with other settings when outside. If you are not insured with PACEY then please check with your insurance provider.

Ultimately, you should use your best judgement and help parents understand whether it may or may not be possible to offer drop-offs and pick-ups at this time, especially if the parents of other children in your care have not agreed to their child leaving your setting.

**The guidance released in August for out of school settings and wraparound care states that these providers should keep children in groups of no more than 15, with the same children each time wherever possible, and that only if providers are unable to follow the protective measures in the guidance, should they keep children in groups of no more than 6, including staff members in line with the government’s guidance on social distancing. It is not envisaged that childminding activity would fall into the type of provision that cannot follow the protective measures.**

Can I provide overnight care as a registered childminder?

*In light of the national lockdown restrictions put in place from January 2021 in England, wraparound care can only be provided for school-aged vulnerable children and children of critical workers or for any pre-school aged children - we are awaiting updating information regarding this question*

Can families use grandparents to care for their children?

Yes, if they are part of a childcare or support bubble. Childcare bubbles continue to be allowed and guidance states: “parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This is mainly to enable parents to work, and must not be used to enable social contact between adults”

PACEY will continue to highlight the importance of early education, as well as where it is illegal to pay to use unregistered childcare.

Read the guidance.

Can community activities such as parent/toddler groups or soft play reopen? Can providers attend?

As stated in national lockdown guidance “Support groups, such as for breastfeeding, postnatal, and baby and toddler groups, for the provision of support for parents and their children, that are necessary to deliver in person, can continue with up to 15 participants (children under five are not counted in the number) where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. This includes where parents and carers meet other par­­­ents and carers with or without their young children. Soft play centres and areas including inflatable parks and trampolining centres are required to close under national lockdown guidance.

From 29 March, parent and child groups which focus on “social or development activities, such as singalong or art classes”can operate outdoors. Groups must have no more than 15 attendees (not including children under five years old and those working/leading the group).

The next stage of easing Covid-19 restrictions, which will take place no earlier than 12 April includes allowing all parent and child groups to go ahead indoors for children under five years old. Please note this date will be kept under Government review.

Our understanding that services currently open are for parents and carers only and childcare providers should not attend.

Settings, parents and carers should work through the ‘system of controls’ collaboratively, to identify and address any risks and allow them to jointly agree appropriate care for the children. Settings must ensure they have read the current guidance, fully assessed the risks and have completed a risk assessment prior to a trip. You know your setting and if you don't feel safe then don't go.

 

Ofsted, first aid and the EYFS

What do I need to tell Ofsted?

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.

If you decide to re-open, or close, your setting, please let Ofsted know by emailing enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Change in operating hours’ in the subject field and including your EY number. Please contact them using an email or phone number that is already known to them, and associated with your registration.

From 28 January 2021, all registered childcare providers in England must use Ofsted’s online notification form to notify Ofsted of significant events, including reporting confirmed cases of Covid-19. Providers should no longer notify Ofsted via phone or email.

To use the online notification form you will need:

  • Your unique reference number (URN)
  • The childcare address
  • Details of the incident and details of those involved

Providers should share the information with Ofsted as soon as practical, and within 14 days of the incident.

Click here for more information

They are also providing rolling updates here - www.gov.uk/guidance/ofsted-coronavirus-covid-19-rolling-update

How is Ofsted managing inspections?

Ofsted has confirmed that graded inspections of registered early years providers will take place from 4 May 2021. All inspections will be carried out on site. However, it may be pragmatic to do some elements of the inspection through video calls. This will be agreed with the provider at the start of the inspection. It will usually only be used to involve parents/carers and those with leadership responsibility who are unable to attend the setting.

In the meantime, Ofsted will be continuing with its vital registration and regulatory work in early years and childcare settings, for example where specific concerns have been raised. This work may require on-site visits, depending on a risk assessment.

When will I have my EIF inspection?

Last autumn Ofsted confirmed that it will move to a six year inspection window. This means each provider has their own inspection window, which is determined by their last inspection judgement. As Ofsted prepares for a return to full EIF inspection, it will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to who is inspected first. It will prioritise providers who: were judged less than good at their last inspection (including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term); providers recently registered that have not been inspected and whose first inspection is overdue, and those that have not been inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspection. Ofsted is unable to answer specific questions about the timing of an inspection for individual providers. 

How will Ofsted ensure everyone remains safe on inspection?

Ofsted will prioritise the safety and welfare of everyone involved in inspections, including children, carers, staff and inspectors - following the most up-to-date guidance from Public Health England. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure and how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures in place. Inspectors will also take a lateral flow test before arriving at the setting and PVIs and Childminders now have access to these tests too. Where possible, any interactions with practitioners, leaders and parents will be in a socially distanced manner. This could include, but is not limited to, standing 2 metres apart in a large room and conversations/meetings taking place outside or by telephone. What precautions are needed will vary from provider to provider and activity to activity, but inspectors will always ensure that they are acting safely and within the clear guidance given.

What if a provider has active cases of COVID-19 or staff / children self isolating?

Where a provider has active cases of COVID-19 in their setting, they can request a deferral of their inspection at the point of notification. Ofsted will consider all requests in line with our published deferral policy. 

What if I am a childminder and have family members shielding in another part of my home?

On 18 March the government announced that shielding advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable will cease from 1 April 2021 and those on the shielded patient list can begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population. Ofsted understands that people on the shielded patients list are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe and will prioritise the safety and welfare of everyone involved in inspections. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure and how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures in place. 

What happens after an inspection?

After the inspection visit, the inspector should submit their evidence through the agreed channels. The inspector arranges for a draft version of the inspection outcome letter to be sent to the provider. The provider will be able to highlight any issues that it wants us to consider when finalising the letter, including any comments they may have about the findings and process. We will consider all comments submitted. If comments are submitted, the inspector will respond to them and this will be shared with the provider with the final version of the inspection outcome letter.

If the provider is not complying with all the requirements, the inspection outcome letter will include details of the action the provider must take and a date by when they must complete the actions. The provider must respond to us by the stated date setting out the action they have taken to comply and to confirm that they have taken the necessary steps to ensure compliance with all the requirements.

Ofsted will follow up any outstanding actions and send a reminder letter to the provider if they do not respond within the timescale. Any outstanding actions will be risk assessed by the regulatory team and action taken accordingly, such as referral to the region on cancellation. A senior manager in Ofsted will decide whether to carry out a further inspection within 12 months if any non-compliance was serious and/or we have reason to believe it may persist.

Ofsted will aim to send a final version of the inspection outcome letter to the provider within 30 working days of the end of the inspection. The provider may submit a complaint when we share the final version of the inspection outcome letter. If they do, the publication of the outcome letter will be delayed until the complaint has been investigated. Ofsted will publish this inspection outcome letter on the Ofsted reports website 8 days after this – 38 working days after the on-site inspection work has finished. The inspection outcome letter will remain on the reports website for a period of 12 months after the date of the inspection.

Does the Early Years Foundation Stage still apply? What about paediatric first aid?

Since the national lockdown began in January 2021, we have had a number of concerns raised by members facing issues accessing PFA training and also transmission risks.

Validity of current certificates can be extended to 31 March 2021 at the latest. This applies to certificates expiring on or after 1 October 2020 and includes paediatric first aiders in provision registered on the General Childcare Register as well as Ofsted registered early years provision. Childminders can also apply this extension.

If asked to do so, providers using this exemption should be able to explain why the first aider has not 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. Anyone who is currently undertaking Ofsted registration will however still need to complete their PFA qualification as it is a requirement of registration.

 

You may wish to read our blog from first aid training provider Tigerlily or access the government guidance.

 

Is there any flexibility in ratios?

The flexibility in ratios remains the same as it has always been. In the EYFS, paragraph 3.30 it states that ‘Exceptionally, and where the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, changes to the ratios may be made.’ Ofsted consider the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak to be an exceptional temporary circumstance in which the staff to child ratios set out in the EYFS can be changed if necessary. However, childcare providers remain responsible for ensuring the safety and security of children in their care.

Amendments made to regulations from 24 April allow further exceptions to 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 to child ratio requirements, but this is not a legal requirement.

You can find further information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-foundation-stage-framework--2

Policies and contracts

How do I manage paperwork and policies with Covid-19?

You will need to continue to review your existing policies and procedures to ensure that they adequately cover the changes in circumstances and to ensure you can operate safely.

PACEY has updated key sample policies (including health and safety, risk assessment, illness and infection control and food and drink) for you to adapt to the specific needs of your setting. These policies are updated regularly as guidance changes.

You can also access a variety of paperwork in our Covid-19 early years toolkit spotlight here - www.pacey.org.uk/working-in-childcare/spotlight-on/coronavirus/reopening-settings-coronavirus/covid-19-paperwork/

How should I manage contracts with parents?

All childcare businesses are individual, and you will know your business and your parents best.

If you have continued to remain closed (whilst other settings reopen) it is likely to be challenging to continue to expect your current parents to wait until you are ready to re-open. You should talk to them about why you are remaining closed and try to come to a mutually agreeable future plan. However these parents may wish to give you notice if they are unable to wait until you are ready to reopen.

Some childcare settings who are not charging their monthly fees have asked parents who can afford to, to pay a voluntary monthly retainer fee to help them stay viable and be able to open after the pandemic. If you do decide to propose a retainer to the families using your service, it will help to explain how this retainer will help you to cover the business costs that you will continue to incur even if you are closed e.g. insurance. Whilst not all parents will be able to do so – especially if they are also self-employed, for example - some may be happy to continue to support in this way but it is likely this will not be a realistic way forward if other childcare services start to reopen

Ultimately, you will need to decide if proposing a retainer fee is something your parents will be willing to pay, potentially for a number of months. You will have to balance your immediate financial concerns with your longer term plans to reopen.

Whatever you decide, be reasonable and balanced in your dealings with parents as you may want them to return to your service in the future or recommend you to others.

When you decide to reopen, you may want to review your current contracts with your parents before they return. In particular if you have agreed any special arrangements with them during the pandemic that may need to be reflected in your contract. PACEY has already updated its contracts for childminding (see the question below).

PACEY members can also contact the legal team for advice on individual contracts and you can also access information from the Competitions Market’s Authority on consumer law.

Has PACEY made any amendments to current contracts?

PACEY’s Childminding Contracts are tailor-made to meet your needs and include useful guidance notes to help you negotiate and agree terms with parents or guardians. The completion of a written childminding contract is a regulation requirement in Wales and part of the EYFS in England.

We have already updated these to ensure they reflect some of the issues that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. This includes the addition of an agreed retainer fee if enforced closure was to occur.

Now available to buy in digital form, the single-use contracts for childminders in England can be purchased individually. These contracts have been updated to cover enforced closures and pandemics. For help in completing digital contracts please see our provider FAQs.  

While new paper contracts have been updated to reflect issues such as enforced closures. If you have already purchased a paper version of a PACEY registered childminding contract (England) pre-14 September 2020, we have an addendum available, free of charge, to cover enforced closures. Please download and update the PDF and ensure that both parties sign and date it. This addendum should be stored securely with your existing contract.

If you purchase a paper version of the Wales PACEY registered childminding contract, you will also receive a bi-lingual downloadable addendum free of charge, which covers enforced closures. This will automatically be added to your basket and you will receive a link to the documents after purchase. 

What was the information shared by CMA regarding COVID-19 and retainer fees?

At the end of April 2020, The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation regarding the early years sector and charging retainer fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. After this was announced, PACEY worked closely with CMA alongside sector colleagues the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) to provide evidence and information about the complex financial issues in the early years sector.

The CMA then issued an open letter to the sector as well as guidance specifically on Covid-19 restrictions and consumer law advice for nurseries and early years settings. 

Please make sure you read the full guidance as it contains clear and important guidance.

How has PACEY, NDNA and SCMA worked with the CMA?

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) have worked together with the CMA since the beginning of May to provide evidence and information regarding the complex financial issues in the early years sector. We also advised on the current guidance to make sure that providers have the correct information and knowledge going forward in regards to COVID-19 retainers fees and consumer law.

Are PACEY contracts and the addendum still fine to use?

Yes. Our PACEY contracts are regularly reviewed by our legal team. In light of this new advice and guidance from The CMA regarding voluntary ‘retainer’ fees, we have re-checked our contracts and have needed no change at this point.

Can I still charge for my holidays/bank holidays?

Yes. You can add charges into your contract such as holidays/bank holidays however, these must be clearly communicated with parents, approached in a fair way and with the clear agreement with parents. We have further advice regarding contracts and agreements here - www.pacey.org.uk/parents/working-with-your-childcarer/contracts-and-agreements/ 

Are parents going to be demanding refunds for retainer fees? Can they?

The CMA is asking providers to consider their contracts and arrangements with parents and take any necessary steps to ensure they comply with the law. If, after reading the CMA advice, you are unsure as to whether or not your charges were fair and reasonable, PACEY members can call the free Legal Advice line. If you feel you may have incorrectly charged your customers, you should proactively contact parents to discuss this and agree the best method of refund.

Equally, if a parent has asked for a refund for their retainer fee during a forced closure but you feel the charges were fair and reasonable then you should contact the parent in writing to explain why you believe your charges were fair and reasonable, stating how you have adhered to CMA’s guidance. If the parent continues to disagree, as a PACEY member, you can call our free Legal Advice line for support and advice on your specific circumstances.

I am still feeling worried about my contract after the release of the CMA guidance, where can I find further support?

In regards to the latest CMA guidance and advice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and charging voluntary/retainer fees, we have some FAQs available to members here.

As every situation is unique, we would encourage all PACEY members to ring the free legal helpline if they wish to discuss their situation in more detail. The number can be found here.

How could I manage first aid reports and getting a signature from a parent when trying to social distance?

Given the current situation and if you are not able to obtain a signature in the normal way, we would suggest that you send the report to the parent via email or phone message. Where the parent normally signs, please write in the time/date and method the parent was informed as well as the time/date and method the parent acknowledged the report.

If you need further support, PACEY members can call the legal helpline.

The family of a child I look after are not adhering to government guidance while not at my setting – what can I do?

Both the setting and the families who attend that setting must adhere to government guidance at all times. This is to keep both them and the setting safe and prevent further outbreaks as we move through government reopening plans.

Before you re-open please make sure that you have all the correct policies and procedures in place and that parents are fully aware of these requirements, why they are in place and what is expected of them.

If you are aware of a family who are not adhering to government guidelines we would suggest that the setting contacts the family with a clear letter explaining and reminding them of the requirements previously set out and that they need to adhere to them. We would also recommend that you seek specific advice from the PACEY legal help line. This is a free service for members.

One of my employees who works at my setting is not adhering to government guidance when not working – what can I do?

It is important that employees understand and adhere to guidance when working and not working. We would suggest adding some information to your staff handbook to remind staff of your expectations. Below is some suggested wording.

“As an organisation we take the health and wellbeing of staff and children seriously. As such, we would expect all members of staff working within the setting to abide by any government recommendations, laws and guidelines on social distancing whether at work or in their private lives.  Any breaches of government guidelines on social distancing will be dealt with in accordance with our disciplinary procedures and may be treated as gross misconduct.

If you need any further information in relation to social distancing, please speak to [INSERT HR/MANAGER NAME HERE]”

Financial support

Is early years entitlement funding continuing for registered providers?

During the coronavirus pandemic, the DfE had made the decision to keep funding entitlements at pre-pandemic levels due to the continued low numbers of children attending early year settings.

Spring term 2021

For spring term 2021 (which covers January 2021 to March 2021 period), Government returned to the ‘normal’ approach of funding based on the levels recorded in the Spring Census in January 2021. This census also counted children who would normally be present during census week but were absent due reasons relating to the pandemic (e.g. self-isolation and parents withdrawal due to safety concerns).

Spring term 'Top-up' 

Local authorities may be eligible for a ‘top-up’ of entitlement funding on a case-by-case basis. If a local authority provides evidence that attendance was below 85% of the January 2020 census which then increases in the spring term, the government will top-up to fund these additional places. However this funding is limited or ‘capped’ to an equivalent to 85% of their January 2020 census levels. 

To find the average attendance over spring term and deliver this top-up, the Government will use a combination of the January 2021 census and the next count (which takes place at the start of summer term 2021) to find the likely ‘mid-point’ average attendance level for spring. The Government top-up for eligible local authorities will bring the spring term allocation up to the average spring levels, capped up to 85% of January 2020 census levels.

Summer and Autumn term 2021

Under normal circumstances, local authorities would be paid for summer term based on the January census levels. Due to the pandemic, the January 2021 census data may be lower than normal, so Government have decided on a different approach to funding for 2021 to 2022.

All local authorities will be funded on a termly attendance count basis in 2021 to 2022, based on actual attendance.

  • Summer 2021 term funding (to cover April 2021 to August 2021 period) will be based on the 2021 summer count. 
  • Autumn 2021 term funding (to cover September 2021 to December 2021 period) will be based on the 2021 autumn count.

We are waiting to hear whether children absent due to reasons relating to the pandemic will also be recorded in the count.

Read the full guidance here:

New funding rates for 2021-22

The DfE also announced new funding rates for 2021-22 which takes into account the 1.2% percent increase promised in the 2020 Spending Review. This equates to a rise of just 6p per hour for three- and four-year-olds and 8p per hour for two year old funding.

Can I claim the Self-employment Income Support Scheme?

Self-employed childminders can claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) scheme which has been extended until the end of September 2021.

  • The third SEISS grant covered November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500. Claims for this have now closed.
     
  • The fourth SEISS Grant will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of three months’ average trading profits. This will be paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500. Claims for this grant will be available from late April 2021 until 31 May 2021. This is to allow process time for recently submitted 2019 to 2020 Self-assessment tax returns. HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you a personal claim date if you are eligible. More guidance will be released soon.
    • To be eligible you must have traded in both tax years:
      • 2019 to 2020 and submitted your tax return by 2 March 2021
      • 2020 to 2021
    • Find out more.
       
  • There will be a fifth and final SEISS grant covering May to September. You will be able to claim for this from late July if you are eligible. The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
    • 80% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more
    • 30% of 3 months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850, for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%
    • More information will be released soon. 

What financial support is available to childcare providers?

You can use this short questionnaire to help identify what your business would be eligible for from the government.

There is a range of financial support available from Government:

  • Business rate relief has been extended, so nurseries in England will qualify for 100 per cent business rates relief from 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021.
    • This will be followed by 66 per cent business rates relief from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, capped at £2 million per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties. 
    • Note that local authority-run nurseries are not eligible.
       
  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) - Self-employed childminders can claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) scheme.
    • The SEISS extended to introduce a third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500. The applications for this have now closed.
    • A fourth and fifth grant have now been introduced for the SEISS.
      • The fourth grant will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500. Claims will be available from late April 2021 until 31 May 2021. To be eligible you must have traded in both tax years:
        • 2019 to 2020 and submitted your tax return by 2 March 2021
        • 2020 to 2021.
      • The fifth grant will cover May to September with claims opening from late July if you are eligible. The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
      • Find out more.
         
  • Coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) / furlough scheme – This scheme was due to close in March 2021, but has now been extended until 30 September 2021.
    • For periods starting on or after 1 May 2021, you can claim for employees who were employed on 2 March 2021, as long as you have made a PAYE Real Time Information submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021.
    • For periods ended on or before 30 June 2021 you can claim 80% of an employees usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
    • From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced each month and the employer will be asked to contribute towards the cost of your furloughed employees wages.
    • Employers will need to pay for employer National Insurance contributions and pensions costs.
    • Find out more
       
  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme - If your small to medium sized business (SME) is affected by coronavirus, you may be able to borrow between £2000 and £50,000 through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. This is also available to some self-employed people. You can check eligibility criteria here. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and for the first 12 months you will not have to pay any fees or interest, or make repayments. The scheme is open until 31 March 2021.
     
  • Recovery loan scheme – available from 6 April 2021 will make available loans between £25,001 and £10 million, and asset and invoice finance between £1000 and £10 million. Find out more.
     
  • If you’re a UK VAT registered business and had a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you could have deferred payment until 31 March 2021. If you still have payments to make you can now pay that deferred VAT in full or join the VAT deferral new payment scheme which is open from 23 February 2021 up to and including 21 June 2021. Check if you are eligible here.
     
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – you can get loans and other kinds of finance of up to £5 million for small or medium-sized enterprises or if you’re self-employed. You’re eligible for this scheme if both of the following apply to your business if based in the UK and has a turnover of £45 million or less per year. The scheme is open until 31 March 2021. Find out how to apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
     
  • Working tax credit has been increased by £1,000 a year.
     
  • For the self-employed (including childminders) the minimum income floor has been suspended until the end of April 2021, meaning Universal Credit can be accessed at a rate to match statutory sick pay (SSP).
     
  • Mortgage holidays will continue to be on offer to those customers struggling to make their mortgage payments through the COVID-19 outbreak. Some banks are also offering further support to those struggling to repay personal loans. Contact your bank or building society to see what they can offer you. 

Further details on support for businesses is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

What support can employers access to help pay assistants/staff?

If you have a contract of employment with your assistant or staff member, as the employer you will be contracted to pay them a salary for a set period of time including any notice period. It will be up to you to decide if you can afford to pay them whilst closed or to consult them on a proposal to be made redundant.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as the ‘furlough’ scheme, has been extended until September 2021.

If you are still delivering a service and have staff working for you, you may be able to apply for the Business Interruption Loan to help you meet immediate expenses, for example wages bills. Read more at www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/for-businesses-and-advisors/

 

What do I do if I don’t qualify for the self-employed help scheme?

We are aware that some childminders, especially newly registered, will not qualify for help and continue to push Government for support of those childminders who receive no help. You should also consider applying for the other available options. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

If you apply for the self-employed scheme, can you apply for Universal Credit, or other sources of government support as well?

Yes. A self-employed person could be entitled to a combination of Universal Credit + new style Employment and Support Allowance + Local Housing Allowance + Child Benefits to see them through the next few months depending on their circumstances.

Removing the minimum income floor means benefits will no longer assume that you earn a minimum amount and will take into account your actual earnings – meaning it will properly catch those who have seen their income fall to nothing.

In addition to these measures the government has worked to reduce the fixed outgoings of self-employed people. So you may also benefit from:

  • Rent deferral
  • Mortgage deferral
  • Tax Bill deferral
  • Business VAT deferral
  • IR35 deferral

For further information regarding Universal Credit please follow these links:

Emotional health and wellbeing

I'm feeling very worried and concerned about the whole situation and having to stay at home is making me feel worse. What can I do?

Taking care of your mind as well as your body is really important while staying at home because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you.

It's important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these difficult feelings will pass. Staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it. So we have listed some useful resources and help if you need it.

  1. NHS Every Mind Matters
    Having good mental health helps us to make sense of difficult times and enjoy our lives more. Take a look at expert advice, tips and more from the NHS support.
  2. Mind 
    It is absolutely normal to be feeling anxious and worried about Coronavirus. Resources from Mind recognises this and give you tips and practical support to help.
  3. Public Health England
    Access some easy to read advice and information on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  4. Samaritans
    The coronavirus outbreak is affecting the way many of us live our lives, and it's normal that this will affect people's mental health. The Samaritans have gathered some resources together to help. If you need someone to talk to, please don't forget you can call the Samaritans at any time, for free, by calling 116 123.

What training support is PACEY offering?

PACEY has short courses as part of EY smart. You can access relevant courses tackling topics including trauma and bereavement, all of which will support your business and the children in your setting as you prepare to reopen in June or whenever you decide to.

You can register here - https://eysmart.pacey.org.uk/

The early years and childcare sector is playing a key part in the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, adds; 
"I just wanted you to know that every single member of staff and every volunteer at PACEY is standing firmly behind you; working tirelessly to ensure you have the support you need to get through this difficult time. We are a small charity but we make up for it with our determination and dedication to support all of our members as well as the wider sector.”