With so many changes in such a short amount of time, it is hard to keep on top of all the different sources of information. So this is our summary of the current situation for out of school clubs (last updated 24 May 2020):
- Planned re-opening of schools and childcare settings
- Closure of schools and childcare settings
- Ofsted regulation
- Coronavirus testing
- Financial assistance
- On the evening of 10 May the Prime Minister announced his 'roadmap' for slowly moving the country out of lockdown. This included education and childcare settings opening to all children in certain age groups (YR, Y1, Y6) from 1 June onwards, if external conditions regarding the transmission rate of the virus have been met. Initial guidance was published by the DfE on the evening of 11 May, and more detailed guidance is expected over the coming weeks.
- We have now had confirmation from the DfE that out of school clubs are included in the types of childcare setting that can open from 1 June, despite only early years settings being mentioned in the initial guidance documents (see links below). More guidance on re-opening is expected from the DfE this week, and should include clarification about what types of childcare are included.
- We have also asked the DfE for more guidance on how rigid settings need to be with regards to ensuring that children in different class groups or 'bubbles' do not mix. We haven't yet had a direct answer to this query, however further guidance for schools published by the DfE on 14 May strongly suggests that children will not be allowed to mix in wraparound care:
"We normally run breakfast and after school clubs as part of our ‘wrap-around’ provision. Are we required to re-start them?
No, you are not required to do so. You should only run such provision if you are able to keep children within the groups they are in during the day or safely distanced."
[Planning Guide for primary schools - FAQs]
- In the meantime providers need to read through the DfE's information about the other protective measures that settings are expected to take, to see whether it would be feasible to re-open your club on those terms.
- You should also get in touch with the headteacher at your school without delay to see how they are approaching the challenges of safely re-opening, so that you can explore how you could align your processes with theirs. You need to find out how they are planning to organise their 'bubbles' of children, as well as the drop-off and collection times for the different groups.
- A likely stumbling block is how to ensure that children of different class groups do not mix during the before or after school sessions. Do you have sufficient space to keep them separated? How could this be achieved (eg by having the children in separate rooms, or could you sub-divide your space in some way)? Depending on the size of the school, would it be possible for the school to ensure that all the before/after-school children for each year group are in the same bubble so that they don't mix with different children after school?
- Our recent article on social distancing in an out of school club setting has some thoughts which may be helpful.
- You will also need to consider how many children are likely to need wraparound care during the first weeks of opening, to decide whether it is financially viable for you to re-open your setting at this time. Currently there is a lot of resistance among parents (and some teachers) to the planned re-opening, so numbers are likely to be low initially.
Latest DfE guidance on how educational and childcare settings should prepare for wider opening:
Actions for educational and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020
Updated guidance for childcare settings to clarify the current situation during the period up to the planned re-opening date of 1 June - it now at least includes a mention of wraparound settings in its list of who the guidance is for:
Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak
More detailed DfE guidance on social distancing and other protective measures for childcare settings and schools:
Covid-19: implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings
DfE guidance for schools on how to prepare for wider opening. 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 guidance for early years and childcare settings on how to prepare for wider opening from 1 June. Although it has 'childcare' in the title, it is only focused on traditional early years settings (nurseries and childminders). No mention of wraparound settings, or of childcare required by children in other primary school years:
Preparing for the wider opening of early years and childcare settings
- As of Monday 23 March you must close your childcare provision, unless you are caring for the children of key workers, (or for children who are designated as vulnerable).
- You cannot stay open to care for children who do not fall into one of the above categories.
- It is up to you to decide whether you want to remain open to offer limited childcare as outlined above. You may decide that due to the small number of children involved, or due to a shortage of staff, that it is not practicable to remain open.
- There seems to be quite a lot of variation in how schools and local authorities are dealing with the childcare issue. Some are taking over the provision of a full day of childcare entirely by opening from 8.00am to 6.00pm, effectively shutting down any out of school providers who previously worked on their sites; whereas other schools are working in partnership with their existing wraparound providers in order to offer parents an extended day of childcare.
- If your club operates from premises that are outside the control of the school (eg from a community building or village hall) then in principle there is nothing to prevent you from opening up to provide a full day of childcare if parents request it - but this can only be for the children of key workers (and for children designated as vulnerable). In some areas, the childcare provided by schools is over-subscribed, so parents are looking for alternatives. Also some parents may prefer to place their children in your care rather than have them warehoused on school sites with large numbers of other children. Note that you would need to notify Ofsted of the change to your opening hours if decided to open all day instead of just before and after school.
- If you are remaining open to provide limited childcare (as outlined above) it is essential that you practice good hygiene and implement social distancing within your setting, as far as is practical with children. The DfE has published some guidance (see links below).
For a definition of vulnerable children, and a list of key workers, see:
Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision
For specific guidance on the closures for childcare settings, see:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): early years and childcare closures
For more information about the closure of schools and childcare settings, see:
Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers
For the new guidance on social distancing within education and childcare settings, see:
Covid-19: implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings
The key points from the latest updates from Ofsted are:
- All routine Ofsted inspections have been halted, although emergency inspections will still go ahead.
- Ofsted won't automatically publish reports from recent inspections until schools and childcare settings re-open. However they now plan write to settings which have reports in the pipeline, to see if they would like their report to be published sooner.
- You don't need to inform them if you are temporarily closing your setting due to Covid-19.
- Any invoices for annual Ofsted registration fees issued from 3 April won't be due for payment until 30 September. However your annual renewal date will not change.
- Don't worry if your paediatric first aid certificate is about to expire. The Health and Safety Executive has granted a three month extension on any first aid certificates due to expire on or after 16 March.
- There has been no relaxation of the regulations regarding when childcare settings are required to register with Ofsted. Ofsted is urging parents not to use unregulated childcare during the coronavirus crisis.
For more coronavirus-related information and updates from Ofsted, see:
Ofsted: coronavirus rolling update
Temporary changes to EYFS requirements
At the end of April the DfE has published a number of temporary relaxations or 'disapplications' to the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to enable childcare provides to be 'more flexible'. The majority of these will not affect the out of school clubs that are still running, as they relate to the learning and development requirements and progress checks, and these don't apply to wraparound settings anyway. The modifications to requirements that could affect out of school clubs are as follows:
- Although settings must use their 'best endeavours' to ensure that there is at least one member of staff with a full Paediatric First Aid (PFA) certificate present on site at all times, so long as the children are over the age of two and a thorough written risk assessment is conducted first, it is now permissable to have a member of staff present at all times who just has a current First Aid at Work or current Emergency PFA certificate. 'Best endeavours' means that providers must be able to demonstrate they have identified and taken all possible steps to appoint someone with the full PFA certificate.
- For out of school clubs, the requirement to have qualified staff only applies to any pre-school children who attend your setting. These requirements have now been relaxed slightly. You still need to have someone present at each session who has a recognised Level 3 qualification, but it is no longer a legal requirement for half of the remaining staff (who care for the pre-school children) to have a recognised Level 2 qualification. It is also no longer a requirement for staff to have a full PFA or emergency PFA certificate in order to be counted as qualified staff.
These temporary changes came into force on 24 April 2020 and will last throughout the COVID-19 outbreak or until government stipulates otherwise. The end date of the legislative changes is 25 September 2020, but the changes will be reviewed on a monthly basis and disapplications and modifications may be lifted earlier. Once the temporary changes are lifted, the disapplications around staffing qualifications in ratios will still continue for two months to allow settings to get their staffing levels back to normal. But all other temporary disapplications to the regulations will cease immediately.
For more details see:
Early years foundation stage: coronavirus disapplications
Childcare workers are classed as essential workers. This means that as of 24 April you are eligible for a free coronavirus test if you have coronavirus symptoms. To find out where your nearest testing centre is, and how to apply for a test, see:
Coronavirus (Covid-19): Getting tested
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The details of how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will work are quite complicated and you must read the full guidance from HMRC, but in essence you can claim back 80% of the wage costs of any full or part-time staff that you have put on 'furlough', up to a maximum of £2,500 per month per person. Furloughed staff are staff that you would otherwise have had to lay off due to a lack of work for them. Instead of laying them off or terminating their contracts, you can furlough them instead. This means that they remain on your company's books for the purposes of continuity of employment etc, but they can't do any work for you.
You don't need to put all your staff on furlough in order to qualify for the scheme. For example you may need to keep some staff on if you are offering limited childcare to key workers, or to cover admin tasks. Note that if staff are still working for you, you won't be able to claim any furlough pay for those individuals even if they are working reduced hours.
When staff are on furlough they can't do any work for you, but they can complete online training courses. Note that you will need to ensure that their furlough pay is equivalent to at least the National Minimum Wage for any time that they spend on training. The guidance from HMRC (see link below) has more information on this.
You must pass the entire furlough grant amount to the employee. You can't keep anything back as 'admin charges' or similar. It is up to you whether you pay an extra 20% to top up the employee's wage to the full 100%, or whether you just pay them the 80%.
Putting staff on furlough constitutes a change to their terms and conditions, so you must get the agreement of the affected staff. (Most staff should recognise that receiving 80% of their pay to stay at home, is preferable to having no job to go back to.) You then need to write to each affected member of staff to formally notify them that they are on furlough and for what period, and to confirm any changes to their pay. You pay your furloughed staff through your usual method and then reclaim the appropriate amount from HMRC. ACAS has useful guidance on the correct procedure for furloughing staff.
HMRC launched its online claim service on 20 April, to enable employers to make a claim be reimbursed for 80% of the wages of any of their staff on furlough. You can only make a claim online, and you must already have a Government Gateway account and be signed up for PAYE online. Claims for staff on furlough can be backdated as far as 1 March and HMRC aims to make payments under the scheme within 6 working days of a claim being submitted.
On 12 May the Chancellor announced that the CJRS will continue in its current form up to the end of July, and then in a revised form from August to the end of October. Details on how the scheme will work during the period from August to October will be announced by the end of May, but will include the ability for businesses to bring staff back part-time but still receive furlough pay, and the expectation that employers will start to contribute to the 80% furlough payment rather than the government meeting the entire cost.
For more information about how the scheme works, and how to make a claim, see:
Claim for wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
For the Chancellor's announcement on extending the CJRS to the end of October, see:
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October
For a clear explanation about the correct procedure for fuloughing staff, see:
ACAS guidance on furloughing staff
If any of your employees have had to take time off because they have contracted Covid-19, or they have been advised to self-isolate, or because they have been shielding, and they are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), then you can reclaim up to two week's worth of any SSP that you have paid out. This only applies if you employ fewer than 250 people, and applies to sickness periods that began on or after 13 March, and to staff who were shielding from 16 April. The online system to enable you to claim refunds will open on 26 May. To find out more about how the scheme will work and who it applies to, see:
Check if you can claim back SSP paid to employees due to coronavirus/covid-19
On 26 March the Chancellor announced that self-employed people, with profits under £50k, would get a grant equivalent to three months at 80% of their average profits (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month). Known as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, the grant will be paid in a lump sum at the beginning of June. The calculation of average profits will be based on your last three years' tax returns, or on your last year's tax return if you haven't been in business for three years. Unfortunately if you have only just started out, and haven't yet submitted your first year's tax return, it looks like you won't be covered by this scheme.
People who are effectively self-employed but operate via a small limited company, won't be covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, but they can be compensated at 80% of their PAYE earnings under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (see above).
The online service for making a claim via the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme opened on 13 May. If you are eligible you should already have been notified of the date and time from which you can make your claim. The process to submit a claim is quick and very straightforward. Once you've submitted your claim online you should receive the funds within six working days. To find out more, see:
Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Bounce Back Loans
On 27 April the Chancellor announced a new loan scheme aimed at getting money to small businesses quickly. The Bounce Back Loan scheme is backed by the government and will allow small businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. Applications will be fast-tracked so that businesses should receive the money 'within days'. The loans will be for periods up to six years and will be interest free for the first 12 months. The scheme went live on 4 May.
Small businesses boosted by bounce back loans
Apply for coronavirus bounce back loan
Local authority grants to small businesses in shared spaces
On 2 May the government announced a top-up fund for local authorities, to enable them to give grants to small businesses which have ongoing property-related costs and which operate from 'shared spaces' which therefore weren't eligible for the existing grants based on business rates (because they don't pay separate business rates). More details about this scheme have yet to be announced, but it will be administered through your local authority and they will have discretion about who they allocate the grants to. If you operate from a 'shared space' such as community building, or possibly a school, and you are still liable for rent, you should contact your local authority in the first instance to find out whether you might be able eligible.
Find out more about the top-up fund for local authorities
More information about financial support
The government has put in place numerous other measures to support businesses, but the ones we've picked out above are those most likely to be relevant to out of school clubs. For more details of the measures outlined above, as well as information about other business support schemes, see the latest government guidance:
Covid-19: Support for businesses
For more information about government support for employees see:
Covid-19: Guidance for employees
The Federation of Small Businesses has a good summary:
Covid-19: Advice and guidance for small businesses and the self-employed