Important updates to coronavirus early years and childcare closure guidance
This week the government updated their guidance for early years and childcare providers in relation to closures due to cornonavirus.
They stress the vital role of early years and childcare sector
"Those who work in the education and childcare sector rightly take their place next to our NHS staff and other critical workers as central to our efforts in battling this virus."
"We appreciate the selfless dedication that childcare staff demonstrate in their work every single day. During this difficult time, we are asking you to go further still so that we can collectively address the challenges we face. You are vital to the country’s response to this crisis, and we offer our full support and gratitude during this difficult time."
The key messages
"We expect childcare settings, schools and local authorities to work together to ensure that different settings are supported to stay open wherever possible, taking into account their circumstances and cohort. We want local authorities to help coordinate what this means, working with childcare settings to deliver the
"We know this may take some time to organise at a local level and we ask you to keep your local authority updated so they know which settings are offering care to priority children and can support them accordingly."
You're already doing this by using our form to update your record on our directory.
Other important Q&As from the guidance
Should early years and childcare settings, including childminders, open over the Easter holidays even if they do not usually?
Where possible, we would encourage early years and childcare settings and schools to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.
What happens if your setting is having difficulty opening over Easter?
Contact your local authority if your setting needs support in making these arrangements (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When will staff take holiday?
We understand that this is a very difficult time for early years and childcare staff, and we are asking a lot of them to help the country fight this virus. We know that settings will make sensible decisions on staffing and what breaks will be needed, but we are asking settings, wherever possible, to maintain provision for children of workers critical to the COVID-19 response and vulnerable children over the Easter holidays.
What if a member of staff already has an enhanced DBS check but is moving temporarily to another early years setting?
Where members of the early years and childcare workforce are already engaging in regulated activity and already have the appropriate DBS check, there is no expectation that a new DBS check should be obtained for them to temporarily move to another setting to support
the care of children.
The onus remains on the receiving setting to satisfy themselves that someone in their setting has had the required checks, including by seeking assurance from the current employer rather than requiring new checks.
Early years settings in some areas are operating in ‘hubs’, involving groups of settings operating at a single site. Is this permitted?
With significantly reduced numbers of children attending, and risks of under-staffing due to illness, we understand that shared provision through early years hubs and clusters is an option being considered in some areas, and in some cases, arrangements are already in place.
There are issues to balance when making choices about provision at this time. First and foremost is public health, which remains the priority. Any arrangements should enable staff and children to limit risks relating to the spread of the virus.
Alongside this, issues such as safeguarding and consistency of provision for all children, particularly those with additional needs, should also be considered.
Additionally, in the current circumstances there will be practicalities to consider, including how children and staff access settings while limiting travel.
We want to ensure the system is sustainable and are working through these points with early years settings, local authorities, and stakeholders, via the Department for Education’s central and regional teams.
Further guidance will be published after Easter.
We're going to stop using the term 'free' in our promotion of early education funding
We fully appreciate that some providers have not been happy with us and the government using the word ‘free’ for the 15 and 30 hours childcare schemes.
We've used the wording because:
it’s the terminology the government use in their communication; including on the Childcare Choices website. We thought it would be confusing for parents if we use different words, especially when parents search the internet for local information
15/30 hours funding is hugely beneficial and often essential for working parents. We need to raise awareness of the schemes and we felt that the word ‘free’ is an enticing ‘hook’ to grab their attention
we want parents to know that choosing a registered childcare provider can be an affordable option for them
We have been willing to reconsider this view. To help us decide, we did some consultation with providers who have joined Dorset's Childcare Voice and parents.
So what's the verdict?
The main outcome you'll want to know is that we've decided to change from using 'free childcare' to 'funded childcare'. We'll gradually update our promotional material, starting with our childcare funding web information.
Read our summary and outcome of this research
We hope you appreciate that we took a very thorough and balanced view when making this decision. We'll be sharing these findings, including with the DfE and HMRC.
If you have any comments please contact the Family Information Service: email@example.com