Guidance for early education and childcare providers - Coronavirus

Follow the latest guidance for early education and childcare providers.


Further help and advice

What to do when you become aware of a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) case within your setting

Early years providers that become aware of any confirmed positive Coronavirus cases should follow these steps:

  1. Contact the Department for Education (DfE) coronavirus helpline on 0800 046 8687 and select option 1
  2. Advisers will inform you what action is needed based on the latest public health advice
  3. If, following triage, further expert advice is required the adviser will escalate your call to the local health protection team (HPT). The HPT will work with you to carry out a rapid risk assessment and identify appropriate next steps
  4. Inform Ofsted:
  5. Notify the local authority of a positive case in your education setting:

    Report a positive case

Please be aware the health protection team will also contact settings directly if they become aware that someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) attended the setting - as identified by NHS Test and Trace.

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 and can assist with reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19. Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline, the relevant options for early years are as follows:

  • Option 1- If you are a member of staff calling from an early years setting, school, further education provider or out of school setting and need advice on the action to take to respond to a positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your setting
  • Option 2 - If you are a member of staff calling from a university and need advice on the action to take to respond to a positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on campus
  • Option 3 - If you work at a school and have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to education and children’s social care
  • Option 4 - If you work at a college, training provider, early years setting, children’s social care or higher education institution and have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to education and children’s social care.

Phone: 0800 046 8687


Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday), 10am to 4pm (Saturday and Sunday)

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

Further guidance and resources

Risk assessment template

We have developed an exemplar risk assessment plan to help you to identify possible risks faced in opening to additional children or re-opening following a closure period. It provides suggestions and considerations of protective measures to mitigate these risks. This sample document has been considered for a larger childcare provision but also includes points that will be relevant for the whole sector. 

The intention is for this to be used as a sample template and it is for you to amend, edit, adapt and reflect upon to open your provision in a safe and secure way with clear protective measures in place. We hope you find this useful in promoting a safe return to work.

Early Years bulletin

Stay up to date with our Early Years bulletin for Northamptonshire nurseries, pre-schools, and childminders or out of school provision. It aims to keep all staff in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) informed of relevant information to support them in their work.

Coping with anxiety and promoting wellbeing

During the current coronavirus pandemic, early years providers, practitioners and children will be facing challenges and changes to their individual lives. Feelings of worry, anxiety and concern for our health and the health of others may be experienced. Feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situations and is something everyone may experience at times.

There are lots of ways you can try to help cope with anxiety and minimise stress to help you look after your mental health and support the wellbeing of others around you.

We have put together articles to help support you at this time:

Keeping in touch with parents or carers whose children are at home

We have produced a set of guidance documents aimed at staying connected with children and families during a full or partial closure of your provision, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 as advised by Department of Education and local health protection teams. They can also be used to keep in touch with a family self-isolating as advised by NHS Test and Trace.

This guidance is designed to assist early years providers to continue to support the learning of children and help parents and carers provide a positive learning environment at home. It is particularly important that providers keep in touch with children with an Education and Health Care Plan and vulnerable children for safeguarding purposes.

See Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP)'s COVID-19 safeguarding arrangements:

  • During the current Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, we would like to reassure you that NSCP are doing their utmost to maintain business continuity and remain committed to safeguarding children and young people in the county.
  • If it is an emergency and you think that a child may be in immediate danger please contact the emergency services directly by calling 999.
  • If you need to contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to make a safeguarding referral, please telephone 0300 126 1000.
  • If you need to contact Social Care urgently during the evening, at night or at the weekend, please telephone the out-of-hours team on 01604 626938.

Application of thresholds

See temporary guidance while services are established during this critical period

Important changes: EYFS disapplications and modifications

During a period of intervention related to COVID-19 from 26 September to 31 August 2021:

  • if the government confirms that an area will be subject to COVID-19 related requirements or restrictions and those restrictions prevent an early years provider from meeting the prescribed requirements of the EYFS, the disapplication document below, with the exception of the EYFS profile assessment disapplication, will be automatically applied. These will begin immediately and will last throughout the period of the restrictions (as governed by the regulations or direction).
  • A two week transition period once the restrictions are lifted is being applied.
  • Early years foundation stage: coronavirus disapplications –
  • Interim visits: registered early years providers - Gov.UK

January 2021: Ofsted phased return to inspection

Ofsted will carry out a programme of assurance inspections from the start of the spring term. These inspections will confirm whether or not a provider is meeting the early years foundation stage (EYFS) requirements.

Assurance inspections will be proportionate and risk-based. Providers will be prioritised based on the length of time since their last inspection, and any other relevant information. These assurance inspections will not result in a judgement of quality, therefore will result in 1 of 3 possible outcomes: met, not met with actions or not met with enforcement.

Routine graded inspections will resume in the summer term of 2021. For further details see guidance on the Government website:

Carrying out Childcare Register inspections  

Ofsted's agreement with the government is to inspect 1 in 10 providers on the Childcare Register each year. Inspection of provision registered only on the Childcare Register (either or both parts) is a compliance inspection. It is not to make judgements about the quality of the provision but to make sure that the provider is complying with the requirements of the register. Therefore the outcome of these inspections will be: met, not met – actions or not met – enforcement action. For further details read

Following analysis of the complaints received from various sources, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published an open letter and advice highlighting practices in the early years sector it considers unfair contrary to consumer law.

Whilst the CMA recognises that during the crisis most nurseries and daycare businesses are trying to do the right thing under unprecedented circumstances and pressures, at the same time consumers (parents) deserve to have their rights protected. This work is not meant to disrupt any agreements fairly and mutually agreed between parents and early years businesses, but is intended to provide clarity on how consumer law applies to COVID-19 disruptions.

The CMA is therefore asking providers to consider their contracts and arrangements with consumers and take any necessary steps to ensure they comply with the law.