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Department for Education coronavirus helpline

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is now available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)

If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UKPRN) available when calling the helpline.

Latest updates

The guidance to local authorities on Use of free early education entitlements funding during COVID-19 has been updated (20 July) to set out the government’s plans for funding local authorities and providers in the 2020 autumn term (section 1). Previously published guidance on early years funding is still valid until the beginning of the autumn term (section 2). In light of COVID-19, the funding allocation to local authorities for the 2020 autumn term will be based on their January 2020 census count instead of the January 2021 census data.

DfE's COVID-19 update (9 July 2020) includes clarification that CJRS should continue to be proportionate to income lost and an update on the interaction between CJRS support and the reopening of early year settings. 

Changes to the guidance on protective measures for providers of community activities, holiday or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school settings offering provision to children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (10 July) include considering group sizes (including the position for early years settings which provide care for both those under and over the age of 5).

Information for parents and carers about the opening of early years providers, schools and colleges, safety in schools, attendance, transport, school meals and exams. (10 July) includes an update to the transport section in the guidance for this summer term – ‘What parents and carers need to know about nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges until August 2020’. These changes ensure consistency with guidance from the Department for Transport.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme update - parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the furlough scheme even after the 10 June cut-off date.  To enable the introduction of part-time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. However, this announcement confirms that parents on statutory maternity and paternity leave who return to work in the coming months after a long period of absence will be permitted to be furloughed. This also applies to staff on adoption leave, shared parental leave, and parental bereavement leave.

Updated guidance on actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - 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).

Guidance for the full opening of schools from the start of the autumn term 

Guidance for what parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term

Local lockdown guidance for Leicester and affected areas of Leicestershire - What schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders, early years and other educational settings need to do if there’s a local lockdown during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings for children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - guidance for providers and guidance for parents and carers

Guidance for schools and local authorities on free school meals arrangements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak Change made - Updated application form and guidance on the temporary extension of free school meals eligibility to NRPF groups. This is to reflect the change in annual household income threshold to £16,190 after tax.

Summer holiday arrangements - The Secretary of State for Education has confirmed that government are not asking schools to open over the summer holidays, and there is no expectation that schools should open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers over this period. Teachers, support staff and school leaders deserve a break, to recharge and rest.  School leaders may consider using their catch-up premium to provide summer school activities for their pupils. Where this is the case, they have the flexibility, discretion and autonomy to decide how they want to do this.

Guidance for managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms

Updated guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable - On 22 June, the Government set out a series of steps for further relaxing shielding guidance which will come into effect on 6 July and 1 August, taking into account that coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rates have decreased significantly over the last few weeks. From 1 August, the Government will be advising that shielding will be paused. From this date, those people previously shielding are advised to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practice frequent hand washing and social distancing. The Public Health England guidance for people who are shielding has been updated to reflect the changes.

Study launched to monitor prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) - The Government has  launched a new voluntary study to assess and monitor the prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) among pre-school, primary and secondary school pupils and teachers.  The initial phase will collect data from up to 100 schools across England, with results available over the summer. We are working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to identify suitable schools that may wish to be part of the initial phase of the study. Participation from schools is on a voluntary basis, and all parents and guardians will be asked to provide informed consent prior to testing.

DfE have released an animation aimed at reassuring parents about attending EY provisionTwitter Facebook  

Robert Owen Nursery School are kindly sharing an unbranded short film to reassure parents about the measures in place to keep the children safe during this period of returning to school for other providers to use too.

Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care - Updated guidance to clarify PPE advice and changes in access to testing.

Letter from DfE 9 June covering the free entitlements funding, CJRS scheme, 30 hours code validity dates, 2-year-old entitlement and support contract for LAs.

DfE has now published the planning guide for early years and childcare settings.  This is voluntary guidance for use by early years providers and school nursery classes regarding re-opening provision from 1 June (subject to the government's five tests being met on 28 May).  Foundation Years have also issued a vodcast concerning the re-opening of settings.  It confirms that once schools and settings re-open, testing will be available for children under 5.

The Prime Minister's statement on 24 May reiterated that government recognised that not all schools or settings would be ready to reopen by 1 June.  Decisions should be made at a local level after providers have carried out their own risk assessments based on available staffing, premises, etc.

The paper by the  Interdisciplinary Task and Finish Group on the Role of Children in Transmission: Modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures has now been published along with an explanatory note.  The modelling suggests that the risk is lowest for re-opening to the youngest children.  These are from the government's own scientific advisers.  An alternative perspective is given by another group of scientists and academics calling themselves Independent SAGE When Should a School Reopen? Final Report.

DfE have also updated the following:

We are involved in regular conference calls with the DfE about the situation as it develops, so email Beatrice if you wish us to raise any queries or issues.  


The Welsh Government has published a series of guidance for schools, colleges and child care settings. A series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) around schools reopening on 29 June has also been published. 


Northern Ireland

Impact of COVID-19 on Early Education office opening, training and events

For the foreseeable future, staff will be working from home. Please contact us by email as we will not be able to respond directly to phonecalls and will only be checking voicemail periodically.

Publications will be dispatched less frequently during the office closure period.  Please enquire about delivery times if timescale is an issue.

We will follow government advice in relation to COVID-19 and social distancing and face to face events in the near future have been cancelled or postponed, and those further ahead will be kept under review - please check before booking.  

We have introduced a series of webinars to allow you to access professional development while the social distancing regulations remain in place.