Re-organising Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) services in the light of COVID-19 has been a complicated and challenging process and we really appreciate the understanding and patience shown by parents and carers.
From August 2021, all early childhood centres (ECCs), funded ELC providers and childminders who are on our contract framework will deliver the statutory entitlement of up to 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds.
The physical capacity of the ELC setting may be affected by physical distancing requirements and therefore the number of children attending at any one time may be lower than the registered capacity of the centre. We need to consider the impact on the number of children and staff required to self-isolate when one or more person in the group tests positive.
The size of a group depends on the age and overall number of children, and the layout of the setting. As a result, parents may not always be allocated their preferred pattern of placement for their child.
Updated COVID-19 guidance
The updated COVID-19 guidance for ELC, school aged childcare and childminders has been published.
The guidance introduces gradual relaxations to some of the public health measures introduced to support operation during COVID-19, based on the latest advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues.
The guidance puts in place age appropriate public health measures for ELC settings in the local authority, private and third sectors to support the safe operation of these settings.
These core public health measures include:
- enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices
- access to fresh air by maximising the use of outdoor spaces and effective ventilation
- strict adherence to self-isolation for those who have symptoms, and to other Test and Protect measures for all
- strict adherence to physical distancing between adults, including parents at drop-off and pick-up times
- supportive use of face coverings
New arrangements for ELC settings
ELC settings will communicate any new arrangements to parents and carers, particularly where there are new routines and procedures that children and families will need to understand and follow.
This should reinforce the need for parents and carers to physically distance and wear a face covering when dropping off or collecting children. Settings will also include information on risk mitigation measures in information for new families taking up places.
All ELC staff, parents and carers must continue to be vigilant for the symptoms of COVID-19, and to understand what actions they should take if someone develops them, either onsite or offsite. It is essential that people do not attend a setting if symptomatic. Everyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate straight away, stay at home and arrange a test.
From 9 August 2021 there will be no blanket requirement for children aged under 5 who are close contacts of positive cases to self-isolate. This applies regardless of whether the close contact is with a case in the ELC setting, household or elsewhere. This decision reflects the relative risks of COVID-19 infection, transmission and harms amongst the under 18s, and the significant and sustained educational harms that result from current self-isolation policy.
Split or blended places
This relates to children attending more than one ELC setting (for example, a nursery and a childminder). It remains very important to continue to minimise the number of contacts and risk of transmission, and to maintain progress in suppressing the virus. Guidance on split places or blended placement is specific to the setting's protection level ie Level 0 to Level 4.
A split place or blended placement must be supported by a refreshed risk assessment that has been undertaken in collaboration with parents and all providers involved in the care of the child. If there is an outbreak within the child's cohort arrangement in either of the settings that the child attends, blended placements must be suspended.
The decision about which one setting the child should attend while the split place or blended placement is suspended will be discussed and agreed with the family.
National information for parents and carers is available from Parent Club which includes frequently asked questions about coronavirus.