Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus

Childcare providers for key workers and vulnerable children

Frequenty asked questions - childcare providers

The following information has been designed to help you navigate the various questions and issues raised when thinking about returning your child to their early years setting. The answers are drawn directly from government advice and are designed to help you make your decision. This is not designed to tell you what you should do, but to help you weigh up all of the facts.

You should speak with your parents as much as possible to understand their thoughts and feelings. If you are stuck at all please do contact the Early Years Team -

 How many children should we have attending our setting?

  • Individual settings will need to make decisions based on your staffing and environment. How can you easily group children in the space(s) you have?
  • The staff to child ratios of the EYFS must continue to be met, so you should consider 'bubble groups' that match the ratio requirements. We would recommend that you also factor in an additional adult to each group who can be responsible and on alert to cleaning and sanitising the area, resources, toys, equipment etc.
  • You should consider how children access the curriculum across the setting if you put them into 'bubble groups'. Can the needs of that small group of children be met if they are together for the duration of the day?

 Which children should be attending?

  • Vulnerable children and those of key worker parents remain eligible to attend. The DfE guidance states that 3 and 4 year olds should be prioritised, followed by younger children into settings.
  • We would recommend that children transitioning into school in September are priority children to return to settings. 

What happens if children live with those who fall into shielded or clinically vulnerable groups, should they attend?

  • If children live in a household with someone who is 'extremely clinically vulnerable' or shielding, it is advised that they do not attend a setting unless  stringent social distancing can be adhered to in the home and in the case of children, they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children.  
  • If children live in a household with someone who is 'clinically vulnerable', including those who are pregnant, the child can attend the EY setting. 

Should my staff and children wear face masks/coverings?

  • The Department for Education have issued clear guidance which states that it is not recommended that staff or children wear face coverings or masks in settings.

 If staff show symptoms of COVID 19, how do they get tested?

  • Staff should log on to the government website and follow the steps. You need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. It’s best to apply for the test in the first 3 days as it may take 1 or 2 days to arrange. You might not get a test if you apply - it depends how many tests are available in your area.
  • Any member of staff showing symptoms of covid-19 should self-isolate at home for 7 days.

 Will we need PPE in our setting?

  • The DfE guidance advises that EY settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases including:
    • Children whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way
    • If a child becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn.

 What should I do now?

  • Think about your staffing structure - who is able to return, how much additional cover might you need, how will you cover any staff illness?
  • Complete a risk assessment for your space(s). We have provided a template and guidance to help you with this.
  • Organise your children who you know are returning into 'bubble groups'. These groups should remain the same, with the same adults.
  • Plan how drop off and pick-ups will be carried out logistically, maintaining social distancing.
    • Develop communications to parents to provide information about how you are ensuring health and hygiene is maintained in the setting and the logistics of bringing children back to the setting e.g. drop off/pick up. Make sure there are lots of opportunities for parents to speak with you by telephone or email.

 What is the 'hierarchy of measures' ?

  • When planning how your setting will open to a wider group of children you should:
    • Avoid contact with anyone with symptoms
    • Ensure frequent hand washing and good hygiene practices are in place
    • Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
    • Put in place regular cleaning of settings - cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
    • Minimizing contact and mixing by altering, as much as possible, the environment and daily routines 

Can children, who been accessing their funded hours at another setting, whilst I have been closed, return to my setting? Will they have to give 4 weeks' notice to the current setting?

  • It will be up to the parent to consider the impact of moving the child, especially if they are due to start school in September. You will need to think about whether you can offer the amount and pattern of hours that they need.
  • For the summer term 2020 they will not be required to give notice on the funded hours accessed at another setting.

In order to minimise the risks associated with COVID 19 it is necessary to re-open my setting on a reduced offer. Do I have to offer the full funded hours that a child is entitled to and do I have to make these hours available to all funded children.

  • All providers are being encouraged to offer places to priority groups such as key workers and vulnerable children. After this, to support children’s early learning, settings should prioritise 3 and 4 year olds followed by younger age groups. You do not have to deliver the full funded offer to all children if this is not supported by your risk assessment.
  • You will not be required to pay back any funded hours that you are unable to offer. You will need to be able to explain the basis for your decision-making to parents.

Do parents still need to renew their 30hr code and Tax-Free Childcare? Do I need to verify eligibility of the 30 hours codes and two year old funding?

  • Yes, parents re-new their code in the same way as they would normally by logging into their account at
  • You will be required to verify eligibility in the usual ways although there has been a temporary flexibility to the deadline dates for the 30 hours entitlement.
  • The Government has also announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to COVID-19.
  • In addition, the 30 hours deadline for the summer term has been extended to the 31st August to give working parents additional time to protect their place. This a temporary change and will be reviewed over the summer. 

Do I still need to complete and return the weekly exceptional headcounts?

  • No, from the week beginning 1st June 2020 you will no longer need to complete these. We will be issuing further guidance about the funding and business support available for Portsmouth City Council shortly.