Coronavirus - preparing to re-open

Background to re-opening (summer term 2020)

The Government is hoping that all early years settings and primary schools will re-open on 1 June, initially with reduced numbers of children: just those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Unfortunately, many out of school clubs will not be able to open, as the decision will have been taken out of their hands by the schools they’re based in. Many schools have refused to allow clubs access to the premises, as they try to minimise risk of infection to the children attending.

For clubs that do still have the option to open, steps need to be taken in advance, to reduce the risk of infection. Clubs need to consider the risk of infection to staff, children and parents, and consider what processes they can implement in order to keep everyone safe.

The Department for Education has produced specific guidance for early years settings (by which they seem to mean nurseries and childminders) and for primary schools. The DfE's general guidance on re-opening schools and childcare settings makes it clear that it does also include breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs. However, despite repeated requests to the DfE for information on issues specific to providers of wraparound care, the promised guidance only materialised on 1 and 2 June. For more information about under what circumstances clubs are allowed to open, see our separate article Restrictions on clubs re-opening.

In terms of the steps that need to be followed to keep children and staff safe, the guidance is in fact very similar for schools and early years settings, so in the absence of guidance specific to out of school clubs, we recommend that clubs use whichever makes most sense in their particular situation.

The purpose of 'bubbles'

The government's recently issued planning guidance for early years settings, states that:

"While it is not expected that children and staff within a group will keep 2 metres apart, it is important for settings to consider how they can reduce contact between groups of children and staff as far as possible, for example by ensuring children and staff mix in a small consistent group and that small group stays away from other groups."

Similarly its planning guidance for primary schools also states that:

"We know that, unlike older children and adults, early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2 metres apart from each other and staff... It is still important to reduce contact between people as much as possible, so children, young people and staff where possible, should only mix in a small, consistent group and that small group should stay away from other people and groups."

In practice this means that children should be kept in their school 'bubbles' as far as possible, and should not be allowed to mix with children from other bubbles. Bubbles should be kept as small as possible, with a maximum of 15 children. Unfortunately, for many clubs, the requirement to keep the children in the same small groups as at school will prove impossible to achieve within the space available, or with their current staffing levels.

Preparation for re-opening

Prior to opening, you should conduct a risk assessment with reference to coronavirus. OOSA members can download our template risk assessment. If you're not an OOSA member, Devon county Council have created a sample risk assessment for childcare settings which is very comprehensive. 

Think about the layout of your premises, and the usual flow of children. Are there some common pinch points, such as them all rushing to dump their coats and bags on pegs at the start of the session, or queuing to wash their hands before eating? Think about how you could rearrange how you use your setting (for example, have the children leave their coats and bags in different areas so that there is less of a crush), or change your timings (such as staggering snack times) so that not all the children are in the same place at once.

Consider the layout of your club and how you could separate off separate areas, for example through the use of tables, tape on the floor, or temporary room dividers. If you have access to outdoor space, think how you might be able to divide this into separate spaces.

Think about how to keep the different groups of children separate by at least 2m whilst transferring them from the school to your club premises.

Preventative steps

Although the children need to be kept within their bubbles, it is still important to take other steps to help limit the spread of coronavirus both within the group and between groups where they have to share facilities (eg corridors, toilets), as well a protecting your staff. These preventative steps include, but are not limited to:

  • Send staff home immediately if they are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus. Staff should then follow the current guidelines on isolation.
  • If a child arrives at your club, displaying symptoms of coronavirus, they should be separated from the rest of the children and their parents should be contacted to collect them immediately. If the member of staff caring for this child is not able to maintain a distance of 2 metres, then personal protective equipment should be used – eg disposable apron, mask and gloves. These should be disposed of following government guidelines.
  • Consider whether you need to employ additional staff in order to manage smaller groups of children and promote social distancing.
  • Arrange to collect children from outside the school building.
  • When the children arrive at your club, the first thing they should do is wash their hands with soap, for a minimum of 20 seconds. Send the children one by one, to help maintain social distancing – if possible keep the children outside until it is their turn to go and wash their hands. Alternatively, you could have a number of hand wash stations (either bowls with soap and water, or failing that bottles of hand-gel) set up at the door to your setting, so that several children at the same time can wash their hands before they go inside.
  • Arrange sessions so that they take place outdoors as much as possible.
  • If children are indoors, keep windows and doors open to keep the space well ventilated.
  • Discourage children from touching each other and avoid activities that would bring children into close proximity for extended periods (eg playing inside dens, working together on the same Lego model, reading a book together, etc).
  • Keep the children in their existing small groups within your club, and discourage the groups from mixing.
  • Individual groups should use the same area of a setting, as much as possible, throughout the session.
  • Encourage children to wash their hands regularly, throughout the session, especially after going to the toilet, before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing.
  • Have tissues readily available for use, when sneezing, and dispose of these, in a lidded bin, immediately after use.
  • If tissues aren’t available, children should be encouraged to cough or sneeze into the crook their arm.
  • Discourage children from touching their faces.
  • Snacks should be taken in rotation, to prevent children from sitting too close together.
  • If the children usually prepare their own snacks, consider having a member of staff serve food to individual children instead, to reduce the risk of the food from becoming contaminated.
  • Ensure that frequently-touched surfaces, such as handles, door plates, light switches, table tops and toys are regularly cleaned with anti-bacterial spray or wipes, before, during and after each session.
  • Remove toys that are difficult to clean.
  • Remove all soft toys and unnecessary soft furnishings, such as cushions and rugs.
  • Try to reduce the sharing of toys and equipment between groups. Ensure that toys and equipment that are shared between groups can be easily cleaned between use.
  • Alter your collection procedure, so parents collect their children from outside the club – update your collection procedure to reflect this. Consider using technology to help with this process, eg parents text to inform you of their arrival, staff get children ready, then text parent to inform them that child is ready for collection from the outside door.
  • Don’t allow visitors, eg delivery drivers to enter the premises.
  • For children who live with someone in the vulnerable categories, they should only attend a childcare setting, if stringent social distancing can be adhered to – this may not be possible for very young children or older children who lack the capacity to follow the instructions.

In addition to the steps listed above, settings should ensure that staff and parents are fully informed of changes to your practice, to ensure that new procedures are correctly implemented.

The list above is not exhaustive, as each club needs to consider the individual nature of their setting. You also need to liaise closely with the headteacher of your feeder school or schools to ensure that your processes are complimentary to theirs.

You should make sure that you have read the Government guidance (see below) and taken advice from your Local Authority, to ensure that you are prepared to re-open and have taken all possible steps to minimise the risk to staff and children.

What we now know

Up to 1 June we hadn't received answers from the DfE to our queries regarding under what circumstances before and after school clubs could operate. We now know that such clubs cannot:

  • Mix children from different bubbles in a limited fashion even if all other protective measures are taken.
  • Take children from school years which aren't yet eligible to return to school.
  • Look after children from eligible school years who parents don't want them to return to school.
  • Take children from more than one school.

In addition, at the time of writing (3 June) clubs are only allowed to open if they run on school premises. For more details see our article Restrictions on clubs re-opening.

Holiday clubs (summer 2020)

Separate guidance for holiday clubs (opening from around 20 July) has now been published. For more information see our article Holiday Clubs guidance: a summary.

Applicable government guidance

General DfE guidance for childcare settings to clarify the current situation during the period up to the planned re-opening date of 1 June.
Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak

General DfE guidance on how educational and childcare settings should prepare for wider opening. Includes confirmation that this applies to wraparound settings and that they can't open unless they operate on a school site:
Actions for educational and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020

Specific DfE guidance on re-opening for early years and childcare settings. Its content is focused on traditional early years settings (nurseries and childminders) although it claims to cover all registered early years settings. Other types of childcare are not mentioned:
Preparing for the wider opening of early years and childcare settings

Specific DfE guidance on re-opening for schools. Although aimed at schools not childcare, it includes some key principles, eg keeping children in the same 'bubbles'. which will also apply to wraparound settings:
Preparing for the wider opening of schools - planning guide for primary schools

DfE planning guide for primary schools. It includes the clear statement that wraparound provision run by schools must maintain the same bubbles as during the school day.  It is reasonable to assume that the same guidance would apply to wraparound provision run by independent providers.
Planning Guide for primary schools - FAQs

DfE guidance on protective steps for schools and childcare settings:
Implenting protective measures in educational and childcare settings