Guidance for early education and childcare providers - Coronavirus

Follow the latest guidance for early education and childcare providers. For letters to headteachers, see the schools guidance page.

Special Educational Needs FAQs (27 March 2020)

Free school meals guidance (26 March 2020)

Low-income families whose children are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) will be offered vouchers or meals at home, even if they are no longer attending school due to coronavirus.

For all voucher/meal at home queries for Northamptonshire please contact

Letter to early years and childcare providers (25 March 2020)

NCC update (25 March 2020)

Updated FAQs:

SEND update (24 March 2020)

Parents and carers who are key workers (23 March 2020)

A letter has been produced for employers of key workers to confirm their status and ensure their children can remain in school and early years settings.

For a copy of this letter, human resources departments should contact our Customer Service Centre on 0300 126 1000.

GP practices will be able to access the letter via the Primary Care Portal.

DfE update - key workers (20 March 2020)

The Department for Education have published information on which parents and carers are counted as key workers:

There is also information for parents and carers on the closure of settings.

NCC update (20 March 2020)

The statement by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stated that from end of play on Friday 20 March 2020, schools, colleges and early years settings will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

In light of the recent updates from the Department for Education and directly from Government regarding School and Childcare setting closures, the Local Authority has been asked to supply information from all Schools and Childcare settings regarding the vulnerable children you have in your care and those whose parents/carers are keyworkers involved in the emergency response.

When the government refers to early years’ settings this includes all early education and childcare provision (childminders, pre-schools, nurseries and independent schools).

The Local Authority has information on vulnerable children as part of our statutory systems regarding Children in Need, Child Protection and EHCP. However, we are aware that you will be working very closely with children in your setting as well as those across our borders and we want to ensure that these children are included and have the support they very much need.

We appreciate that this is a very concerning time for everyone and we wouldn’t ask you for such information if it wasn’t completely necessary to safeguard our most vulnerable children. 

Could you also please add in your response if you planning/able to remain open for identified children and if you are working in partnership with another school, setting or childminder to ensure this is possible.

How to return this information

Please complete all columns for all your vulnerable and identified children using the document below and return it to using your existing GDPR procedures:

Thank you

I would like to thank you all of assisting with compiling of this information. If we work together we can make sure we support the most vulnerable children in our county.

Stay safe and look after yourselves and your families.

Jess Milne
Strategic Manager - Early Education and Childcare Service

Department for Education update (18 March 2020)

After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Nurseries should also follow this guidance. The government will provide financial support for these settings as required.

Where possible, the government is encouraging settings to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.

NCC update for Early Years Funded Providers in Northamptonshire - COVID-19 (18 March 2020)

On 17 March 2020 the government released updated guidance on:

  • Continued payment for free early years entitlement places if settings are closed on the advice of Public Health England
  • Continued payment for free early years entitlement places if children are unable to attend due to coronavirus
  • Whole household isolation
  • The temporary suspension of Ofsted inspections
  • Recording children's absences

Communication from the DfE on 17 March 2020:

NCC will continue to pay for free early years entitlement places if settings are closed on the advice of Public Health England or if children cannot attend due to coronavirus.

If a setting should close before any additional measures are proposed by the government, we will evaluate each case individually. Please continue to keep the Northamptonshire Early Education and Childcare Team informed of steps you are taking at

Up to date guidance and advice can be found on the Public Health England guidance for schools and other educational settings.

Recording attendance - current DfE advice

  • Where a child is in self-isolation, in accordance with latest information and advice from Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, the child should be recorded as unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances in the attendance register.
  • Where a child does not attend their setting despite the setting operating as usual and is not self-isolating, the child will be marked as absent. It is for the setting to determine whether or not the absence is authorised depending on the individual circumstances.
  • Where a child cannot attend their setting due to illness, as they normally would, the child should be recorded as absent in the attendance register and the setting will authorise the absence.

Other useful information

Department for Education coronavirus helpline

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is 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), 10am to 4pm (Saturday to Sunday)

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

If you have a specific concerns about your setting, you can email Public Health at which will then get signposted to the most appropriate place.