You are here

Coronavirus updates

On this page:

Elsewhere on our site:

Useful resources

Information for settings and schools

Updates on COVID-19

NSPCC guidance on safeguarding and COVID-19


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.

Core guidance

Latest updates

5 August 2021: Step 4 Additional Q&A for early years and Contact Tracing From Step 4 Onwards.

19 July 2021: DfE have published the followng guidance on what Step 4 changes mean for education and childcare settings:

As most restrictions across all parts of society are relaxed from Monday 19 July, we want to keep schools, colleges and early years settings informed on what Step 4 changes mean. To help with this, we have recorded a webinar which provides information on the key changes to COVID-19 measures such as "bubbles", contact tracing, face coverings, self-isolation and testing, in addition to providing answers to some frequently asked questions.

From Monday 19 July, schools, colleges and nurseries will no longer carry out routine contact tracing. From this point onwards, close contacts will be identified and contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

In response to feedback from stakeholders, we have produced guidance, some frequently asked questions and answers and a template letter for settings to send to parents, pupils and students on changes to contact tracing of close contacts. These can all be found on the document sharing platforms for primary and early years,

They have also issued a Q&A for early years settings, including clarification that parent and child groups can operate as normal and without restrictions in attendance.

DfE have revised guidance on the changes associated with Step 4, covering both the summer period and the following term, when children will return to school:  Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak  have been pdated 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.

Covid restrictions in education settings to end at Step 4 Further Covid restrictions in schools, such as class and year group bubbles, will be lifted but protective measures will remain in place next term. (6 July 2021)

Schools - including reception year - to return on 8 March and PVIs to have access to home testing (22 Feb 2021)

DfE FAQ document (29 Jan 2021)

FAQs from sector discussions with the DfE (7 Jan 2021)

The DfE have issued (5 Jan 2021)  the following rationale for keeping early years settings open:

  • The reason schools have been restricted is not that they are unsafe but because additional measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus. The wider restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the community enable us to continue prioritising keeping nurseries and childminders open, supporting parents and delivering the crucial care and education needed for our youngest children.
  • Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff. 0-5 year olds continue to have the lowest confirmed rates of coronavirus of all age groups, and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children. Evidence shows that pre-school children are less susceptible to infection and are not playing a driving role in transmission. There is no evidence the new strain of the virus causes more serious illness in either children or adults and there continues to be strong evidence that children are much less susceptible to severe clinical disease than older people.
  • PHE advice remains that the risk of transmission and infection is low if early years settings follow the system of controls, which reduce risks and create inherently safer environments.
  • Early years settings have been open to all children since 1 June and there is no evidence that the early years sector has contributed to a rise in virus cases within the community. Early evidence from SAGE showed that early years provision had a smaller relative impact on transmission rate than primary schools, which in turn had a smaller relative impact than secondary schools.
  • Early years childcare providers were one of the first sectors to have restrictions lifted last summer, in recognition of the key role they play in society. Childminders and nursery staff across the country have worked hard to keep settings open through the pandemic so that young children can be educated, and parents can work. The earliest years are the most crucial point of child development and attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development. We continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open in full because of the clear benefits to children’s education and wellbeing and to support working parents. Caring for the youngest age group is not something that can be done remotely.

new national lockdown has been announced in England from Wednesday 6 January.  Under this, the guidance confirms that "All early years providers (including registered childminders but not including reception years in primary schools) can remain open during this period of national lockdown."  This means that maintained nursery schools, nursery classes (unless impacted by the wider closure of their school), early years provision on school sites, private, voluntary and independent providers, childminders and childcare on domestic premises can remain open.  Childcare bubbles can continue to operate and nannies can also continue to work.

All guidance has been updated to reflect updated self isolation information to 10 days from the day after contact with the individual tested positive (from 14 days) (14 December)

The EYFS disapplications guidance has been updated to remove reference to the transition period for the original disapplications, which ended on 25 November 2020; remove reference to extending the validity of PFA certificates if certificate requalification training is prevented for reasons associated directly with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, or by complying with related government advice. The period up to which the validity of certificates could be extended ended on 25 November 2020.

Clarification on employees whose health has been affected by coronavirus or other conditions: Employees can be furloughed where they are unable to work because they:

  • are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding)
  • have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, including employees that need to look after children

The CJRS is not intended for short-term sick absences. If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees.
Furloughed employees who become ill, due to coronavirus or any other cause, must be paid at least Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). As under the CJRS previously, it is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.  For further information, see the guidance

Further FAQs 19 November 2020

Briefing on the medical and scientific advice on children in education and childcare settings (13 Nov 2020)

Public Health England (PHE) 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

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.

Help children aged 2 to 4 to learn at home during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Advice for parents and carers of children who have not yet started school.

Supporting your children's education during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information, guidance and support for parents and carers of children who are learning at home.

Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Understand how to follow safeguarding procedures when planning remote education strategies and teaching remotely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information, guidance and support for teachers and leaders on educating children during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): SEND risk assessment guidance - Guidance for special schools, specialist colleges, local authorities and any other settings managing children and young people with complex special educational needs and disability (SEND).

COVID-19: Attendance recording for educational settings

Educational resources from Public Health England - general resources and resources for schools

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


Operational guidance for schools and settings to support limited attendance from 22 February

Childcare and play: alert level 4 frequently asked questions (updated 22 Feb 2021)

Routine testing for education and childcare staff (5 Feb 2021)

Written Statement: Continued Operation of Childcare and Play Provision in Wales (18 January 2021)

Return to school and college arrangements from January (11 January 2021)

Childcare and play: alert level 4 frequently asked questions (updated 5 Jan 2021)

Coronavirus self-isolation and quarantine reduced to ten days in Wales and therefore updated guidance for schools (9 December)

£500 payment scheme now open to parents and carers of children required to self-isolate Parents and carers of children asked to self-isolate will be eligible for the Self-Isolation Support Scheme the Welsh Government has announced.  (7 December)

Keeping children safe in childcare: coronavirus (4 Nov)

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

During lockdown, staff will be working from home, with occasional visits to the office to deal with post.  Phone calls will be diverted to a staff mobile, and will be answered where possible.  Alternatively, you may prefer to contact us be email.

Publications will be dispatched less frequently during lockdown.  Please enquire about delivery times if timescale is an issue.

We will follow government advice in relation to COVID-19 therefore no face to face events are planned in the immediate future.  We have introduced a series of webinars to allow you to access professional development while the social distancing regulations remain in place.  Branch events will also be taking place online.