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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

DfE have updated guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings to provide information on the care that staff members visiting families in their own homes should take.

Public Health England (PHE) has introduced a new dedicated advice service, delivered by NHS Business Services Authority, for nurseries, schools and colleges. The service is for those needing support on the action they should take when they have been informed of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their setting (i.e. a pupil or staff member testing positive).
It can be reached by calling the Department for Education coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline on 0800 046 8687 and selecting option 1. This option will take you through to a dedicated team of NHS Business Services Authority advisors who will work through a risk assessment with you to identify close contacts, and will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice. Advisors will be responsible for referring more complex cases to the PHE regional health protection team, as necessary, following a triaging of your circumstances during the call.
Phone: 0800 046 8687 – option 1, Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm

The relaxation of the learning and development and assessment requirements of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) that were implemented at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak came to an end on 25 September 2020.  The disapplications relating to paediatric first aid (PFA) and qualification requirements related to ratios have a two month transitional period and so will end on 25 November 2020.  The validity of PFA certificates which expired during the outbreak is also extended to 25 November 2020 at the latest. This applies to certificates expiring on or after 16 March 2020.

From 26 September 2020, new disapplications come into force where a provider can disapply specific elements of the EYFS in the event of a local or further national lockdown. These would only apply where a provider is prevented from complying with the requirements of the EYFS due to coronavirus related restrictions or requirements which have been imposed on a geographical area by regulations or a direction (a local lockdown for example). These disapplications are very similar to the previous modifications, covering learning and development requirements, PFA, qualifications relating to ratios and the 2 year check. The difference is that the EYFS profile is not covered by these new disapplications.

DfE have updated guidance for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to include further information about: the use and disposal of face coverings; supervised toothbrushing programmes; process for local lockdowns; music, dance and drama; maximising use of sites and ventilation within settings; reopening of buildings; journeys, such as pickups and drop offs; attending more than one setting; a child with symptoms attending a setting; pregnant women; visitors to settings; including new admissions and settling in; use of outdoor private and public spaces; informal childcare; supporting children’s and staff wellbeing; new SEND legislation; EYFS disapplications ending on 25 September 2020; emergency first aid; the Job Retention Bonus scheme; managing coronavirus cases, and funding.  It also includes revised wording about: employer health and safety and equalities duties; staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable; children who are shielding or self-isolating, and; safeguarding.

Government have confirmed that informal childcare will be exempt from certain restrictions under local lockdowns.

DfE have translated guidance for parents and carers with children in nursery, school, or college in the autumn term into the following languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese – traditional, Chinese – simplified, French, Gujarati, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romany, Somali, Turkish and Urdu.

DfE have published an action list for schools and an action list for early years and childcare providers must follow in the event that a child or young person displays symptoms or if they confirm they have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Reminder from DfE:

It is vital that educational settings only ask children or staff to self-isolate and recommend they get a test if they develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Those sent home to self-isolate, having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, should only get tested if they develop symptoms themselves. The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. The capacity of the NHS Test and Trace system must be protected for those with symptoms of the virus. Booking is essential for drive in and walk in test sites, and under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In line with the guidance, the home test kits supplied to schools and colleges must be reserved for those who face significant barriers to accessing a test and would not otherwise get tested. The Department of Health and Social Care is emailing all schools and colleges with details of how to access additional test kits. An order may be placed each month for a number of kits proportionate to the number of pupils or students at your school or college.

No one with symptoms should attend their nursery, school, college or university. If anyone in your early years setting, school or college confirms to you a positive test for coronavirus (COVID-19), you should notify your local health protection team immediately. The health protection team will work with you to carry out a rapid risk assessment and identify the appropriate next steps.

in April 2020 the government temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the EYFS statutory framework. The current disapplications will be lifted on 25th September 2020 with a 2-month transitional period for disapplications around staffing levels and Paediatric First Aid. This is in recognition that some providers may need time to get back to full staffing levels once the disapplications are lifted.  Further restrictions or requirements related to coronavirus (COVID-19) due to a local or national lockdown, may affect a provider’s ability to comply with the EYFS. Therefore, new regulations will come into force on 26 September 2020 and (with the exception of the EYFSP disapplication) will allow the disapplications to reapply where a provider is prevented from complying with the EYFS due to coronavirus related restrictions of requirements which have been imposed by government.  Full details can be found in the updated EYFS disapplications guidance.

The disapplication of routine Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools has been extended to the end of September.

Education actions cards for reporting and managing a possible outbreak.

DfE have provided information about the "tiers of national restriction for education and childcare" which is a tiered approach to local lockdowns.  Under tiers 1-3, early years childcare settings and primary schools will continue to allow all children to attend.  Only under tier 4 will early years provision be restricted, reverting to access only to vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

Parent reassurance leaflet: "Taking your child to nursery or a childminder: what parents need to know" (via Dropbox)

DfE have updated:

  • guidance for parents and carers on what they need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This update provides information on school admission appeals, entry tests for selective schools, and exams and assessments in the autumn term, and further information on the use of face coverings in schools and links to online resources that are available to help parents, carers and children with their mental health and wellbeing.
  • guidance for schools during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, to provide additional advice on the return of staff who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable to work, information on the support available to schools when sourcing supply teachers and details on the framework for supporting transport to and from schools, and information on the measures to take when teaching music, the performing arts, sports and physical education in schools and the provision of wraparound care and extra-curricular activities.
  • the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework to reflect the extension of the validity of current paediatric first aid certificates. If paediatric first aid certificate requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with coronavirus (COVID-19), the validity of current certificates can be extended to 25 November 2020 at the latest. Employers or certificate holders must do their best to arrange requalification training at the earliest opportunity. This applies to certificates which expired on or after 16 March 2020.
  • guidance for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to reflect the change in legislation to the 30 hours free entitlement and tax-free childcare offers that came into force on 31 July 2020 and will be in effect until 5 April 2021 and to reflect that early years settings can now return to normal group sizes. Early years settings should still consider how they can minimise mixing within settings, keeping groups apart as much as possible.

The UK Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has announced that the self-isolation period for people that have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or that have received a positive test result has now increased from 7 to 10 days.

During local lockdowns, all registered early years and childcare settings, including childminders, may continue to provide education and childcare to all children. They should continue to follow the national guidance for early years and childcare settings.

Flexibility on eligibility for childcare support has been extended to 31 October for families whose eligibility has been impacted by COVID-19.  Working parents or carers who are eligible for Tax-Free Childcare or 30 hours free childcare but have temporarily fallen below the minimum income requirement as a result of the pandemic will continue to receive financial support until 31 October 2020.  Critical workers who may exceed the income threshold for the 2020 to 2021 tax year as a result of working more to play a vital role in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will continue to receive support this tax year.

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.  


Childcare and play: coronavirus firebreak guidance (from 23 Oct)

Education and childcare: coronavirus FAQs

Infection control in the Foundation Phase environment: A collation of top tips for adapting your continuous provision in the Foundation Phase to support infection control.

Operational Guidance for schools and settings autumn term 2020 (updated 11 August)

Reopening children's playgrounds and outdoor play areas: coronavirus

COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool

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.