Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

What childcare services early years settings, childminders and local authorities need to provide during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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Applies to England



This guidance is for providers registered with Ofsted and childminders registered with childminder agencies for children of all ages, including:

  • nurseries and wraparound childcare
  • before and after school clubs
  • holiday clubs

There is additional guidance for childminders registered with Ofsted or a childminding agency if someone they live with has COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive or is self-isolating as a close contact.

This guidance does not cover nannies or au pairs.

We will update this guidance as further information becomes available.

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Updates to this page

Published 24 March 2020
Last updated 24 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. We’ve updated the guidance to reflect new public health guidance tracing close contacts, isolation and when someone has symptoms or a positive test.

  2. Updated the guidance to reflect that from 21 February twice-weekly testing in settings will no longer be required and on 24 February, the guidance on tracing close contacts and self-isolation will be replaced by UKHSA guidance.

  3. Updated guidance to align with the Plan B announcement on Wednesday 19 January 2022. This includes the removal of the recommendation to wear face coverings in communal areas from 27 January. Additional guidance has also been added on staff deployment and staff shortages, EYFS flexibilities, prioritising early years places and reporting COVID cases to Ofsted.

  4. Guidance updated in line with the UKHSA announcement about confirmatory PCR tests, clarification that children can return to the setting on day 7 if they've had 2 negative LFD tests and guidance on testing under 5s for household contacts.

  5. Updated to reflect that daily rapid testing is now recommended for contacts of COVID-19.

  6. Following the Prime Ministers announcement on 8 December 2021, we have added guidance on working from home, the NHS COVID pass and parent and child groups. We have updated guidance on vaccination, vulnerable children and when to contact the NHS self-isolation hub, face coverings in communal areas, new and expectant mothers and individuals previously considered clinically vulnerable.

  7. Converted to HTML to improve accessibility. Added clarification on the use of face visors and face shields by those who are exempt from wearing face coverings and what guidance children and staff must follow when traveling to England from abroad.

  8. Updated guidance on travel and quarantine, face coverings and tracing close contacts and self-isolation to reflect new measures announced on 27 November 2021.

  9. This guidance has been updated to reflect the September Review and ensure it is consistent with the changes to advice relating to those previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable, remove out of date information relating to the 2020 to 2021 academic year, and update guidance on educational visits.

  10. We have removed outdated term references, removed the guidance on routine vaccines and teething. The local outbreaks, mixing, tracing close contacts and self-isolation and face coverings sections were also updated.

  11. We have updated the actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic to reflect that we moved to Step 4 on 19 July. This includes removing the section on ‘contact tracing until Step 4’. We have also updated sections on clinically extremely vulnerable staff and children.

  12. Updated to clarify that, from 19 July, government is removing the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where you may come into contact with people you don't normally meet. This includes public transport.

  13. Added operational guidance for early years settings which applies at Step 4. This guidance removes restrictions such as keeping children in small consistent groups and wearing face coverings in communal areas. It also includes information about updating your outbreak management plan and what to do when an individual in your setting tests positive for COVID-19. At Step 4, close contacts will be identified by NHS Test and Trace. [By the autumn term, children under the age of 18 will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact.]

  14. We have converted the guidance to HTML to make it easier to read. We have not changed any of the guidance from the update on 10 May.

  15. The guidance has been updated to reflect step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown. Information has been included on staff wellbeing, clinically extremely vulnerable, safe removal of face coverings, attending more than one setting, visits to setting by external professionals, parent and child groups, organised performances, trips, childminders meeting other childminders.

  16. Guidance updated to reflect step 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown, on singing in parent and child groups, educational trips, and for staff and children who are clinically extremely vulnerable. Updated the face coverings section on visual communication, visors and exemptions.

  17. Converted the 'Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak' from PDF to HTML. This version has been updated to reflect the DHSC announcement that a confirmatory PCR test is required following a positive LFD test result in England.

  18. Updated guidance on shielding for staff and children, asymptomatic testing, Test and Trace payments for parents, parent and child groups: singing, educational visits and resuming Ofsted visits.

  19. Updated to reflect changes in parent and child groups and in the system of controls.

  20. 'Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak' document updated to correct formatting and links.

  21. We have withdrawn the ‘Education and childcare settings: national lockdown from 5 January 2021’ guidance and transferred relevant sections into the updated ‘Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ guidance.

  22. Updated the national lockdown guidance to include information on educational visits, arriving and leaving the setting, face coverings and pregnant staff. Updated 'What to do if a child or adult is displaying symptoms of coronavirus' to include information on charging parents and carers, childminders, and NHS advice on vaccines and fevers.

  23. Updated with additional guidance for early years education and childcare settings during the national lockdown from 5 January 2021.

  24. Updated the guidance for pregnant employees.

  25. Updated information on tier 4 restrictions, charging parents and carers, what to do when an individual has had close contact with someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, how to contain any outbreak, the definition of close contact, when to count 10 days isolation period from and CJRS. Replaced 'What to do if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)' with a new version.

  26. Updated information on quality assurance visits, 30-hour entitlements and days of self-isolation.

  27. Action list: updated self isolation information to 10 days from the day after contact with the individual tested positive (from 14 days).

  28. Update to 'Side effects of children taking a vaccination or teething'.

  29. Updated guidance on Ofsted inspections, parent and child groups, and local restriction tiers and contingency framework, and changed hyperlinks for 30 hours entitlement and tax-free childcare.

  30. Updated to address changes for the exit from National Restrictions on 2 December. New and updated guidance on managing safety in settings and staffing, 30 hour entitlements and information on business support. A full list of updates is included at the beginning of the guidance document.

  31. Added links to new national restrictions guidance.

  32. On 16 October 2020 - amended information on local COVID alert levels and tiers of restriction (section 3), staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (section 3), children who are shielding (section 4) and informal childcare (section 5).

  33. Amended information on local COVID alert levels and tiers of restriction (section 3), staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (section 3), and children who are shielding (section 4).

  34. Added new content on face coverings, toothbrushing, local lockdowns, music, dance and drama, pregnant women, visitors, visits, informal childcare, EYFS disapplications, supporting wellbeing, SEND legislation, journeys, dual settings, reopening of building emergency first aid, Job retention Bonus Scheme. Updated information on funding to align with other funding guidance, employer health and safety and equalities duties, shielding and safeguarding, managing COVID-19 cases.

  35. Updated the section on managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and what to do if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  36. Added updated version of 'What to do if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)'.

  37. Added 'What to do if a child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)'.

  38. Updated to reflect changes in legislation to the 30 hours free entitlement and information on the validity of Paediatric First-Aid certificates.

  39. Updated to reflect that early years settings can return to normal group sizes. Includes content from the Planning guide so that all information is in one place from now on and the Planning guide is deleted. Guidance also includes updated information about autumn funding, wraparound care, managing requests for site visits for new admissions in September, data collection changes and reporting to Ofsted.

  40. Updated to set out a change to the protective measures in early years settings that will be effective from 20 July, removing the requirement to keep children in small consistent groups within settings (sections 2.1 and 3.3). Added new content on risk assessment (3.1), supporting staff with increased risk factors (3.2) and system of controls (3.3). Updated content on attendance at settings for those shielding, with changes to the advice effective from 1 August, and removal of content on vulnerable children since settings are open for all children (section 4). Updated content on wraparound care (5.3). Updated Early Years Foundation Stage reforms (7.6) and Reception Baseline Assessment (7.7).

  41. Updated to reflect that early years providers are now able to open for all children and to provide additional information on protective measures.

  42. We have added a clarification on the requirement for providers to carry the appropriate insurance (for example, public liability insurance) to cover all premises from which they provide childcare or childminding.

  43. Guidance updated to include a restructure of the document in line with wider opening, updated content on funding including in relation to the Competition and Markets Authority and insurance, updated content on infection prevention and control, a new section on attendance, new information on the use of community centres and before and after school clubs, a new section of safeguarding and welfare including provisions for children with SEND and a clarification on paediatric first aid certificates.

  44. Updated guidance including adding a new section clarifying the position on welcoming back all children to early years settings from 1 June, information on when childminders can reopen to more children, and what provision they can currently provide, information on testing for essential workers, and information for parents on temporary changes to the 30 hours free early education entitlements.

  45. Update to reflect changes in Early Years Statutory Framework.

  46. Updated guidance on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

  47. Updated introductory sections and sections on Who this guidance is for, Prioritising children, Funding, Staying open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, Early Years Foundation Stage and Holidays.

  48. Updated to clarify the income support available and the requirements for providing safe, quality care for vulnerable and critical workers’ children.

  49. First published.

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