On 2 July 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) updated its covid-19 guidance for early years settings.
Here, we summarise some of the key messages in that document, with a particular focus on the guidance relating to increasing the number of children attending settings.
We do not cover all aspects of the DfE's guidance, and you shouldn't read our summary in isolation. Instead, it aims to clearly and succinctly identify some of the main changes that maintained nursery schools and other early years settings should be aware of as they consider plans for the autumn term.
Much of this guidance is similar to the guidance issued for schools (while it is important to note that maintained nursery schools are clearly schools themselves, the DfE has said that they should follow its guidance for early years settings).
Infection prevention and control
The overarching approach to infection prevention and control moving forward is based around the concept of a 'system of controls'. The government has identified nine control measures that early years settings should familiarise themselves with and implement.
In simple terms, these are as follow:
- Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (covid-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend settings
- Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual to ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the 'catch it, bin it, kill it' approach
- Introduce enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
- Minimise contact between groups where possible
- Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Engage with the NHS track and trace process
- Manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (covid-19) among the setting community
- Contain any outbreak by following the local health protection team's advice.
You can find further details about each of these measures in the government's guidance document.
Early years settings are told that "if [they] follow the guidance on the system of controls, they will effectively reduce risks in their setting and create an inherently safer environment."
Early years settings are now expected to "thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessment and draw up plans as part of their wider opening."
Minimising contact between individuals where possible
A key difference between the guidance for early years settings and schools is that "from 20 July, early years settings will not be required to arrange children and staff in small, consistent groups."
However, the guidance also states that "settings should still consider how they can minimise mixing within settings, for example, where they use different rooms for different age groups, keeping those groups apart as much as possible."
It is important to note that the information in this section does not apply to reception classes in schools. The DfE has said that the approach to reception classes should be in line with the schools' guidance.
- Visitors: Wherever possible, settings are encouraged to avoid visitors entering their premises. In instances where settings need to use other essential professionals, such as social workers, speech and language therapists or counsellors, or professionals to support the delivery of a child's education, health and care (EHC) plan, settings should assess whether the professionals need to attend in person or can do so virtually. If they need to attend in person, they should closely follow the protective measures in the setting, and the number of attendances should be kept to a minimum. Where possible to do so, social distancing should be maintained
- Wraparound care: Wraparound providers who are registered with Ofsted or with a Childminder Agency, run before and/or after school clubs on schools' premises or in early years settings and follow the safe working guidance can operate
- Ofsted: For Ofsted registered early years provision, the DfE has stated that it intends for routine inspections to restart from January 2021. Ofsted will continue with its registration and regulatory work for early years and childcare providers. In the autumn term, inspectors will commence some regulatory activity to providers who have been judged 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' and have associated actions to fulfil. Inspectors will look at what progress leaders and managers have made to meet actions set at the last inspection and how they are improving their practice. These visits will not result in a judgement. However, Ofsted will publish a summary to confirm what it finds during the visit.
First published 17 July 2020