In April 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level to 5, indicating their belief that a global swine flu (H1N1) pandemic is imminent.
Ofsted and emergency planning
For out of school care providers this increased alert level has practical implications. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) guidance on inspections states that assessing how well settings manage difficult situations is an important part of the inspection process. In doing this inspectors should consider the effectiveness of any measures that the setting has implemented to minimise disruption during the pandemic.
Drawing up a Swine Flu Policy for your club is a useful planning exercise in itself, and you can also use it to demonstrate to Ofsted that your out of school club is properly prepared. We have put together a sample Swine Flu Policy for you to download.
Cases of swine flu at your club
The latest advice from the DCSF, based on current scientific opinion, is that closing individual settings is of limited benefit in stopping the spread of the disease.
If a child develops an illness that could be swine flu (see symptoms box) while attending your club, you should isolate the child from other children until collected by parents or carers. There is no need to close the setting.
However, it is important to keep parents and staff informed, especially those in high-risk groups.
Children or staff who have symptoms of swine flu should not return to the club until all symptoms have passed and they feel well.
Controlling the spread of swine flu
Flu is spread from person to person by close contact for example:
- Infected people spread the virus to others through large droplets when coughing, sneezing, or even talking within a close distance (one metre or less).
- You can catch the virus from direct contact with an infected person: for example, if you shake or hold their hand, and then touch your own mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands.
- You can catch the virus by touching objects (e.g. door handles, light switches) that have previously been touched by an infected person, then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands. The virus can survive longer on hard surfaces than on soft or absorbent surfaces.
You can limit the risk of catching or spreading the flu virus by:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Minimising contact between your hands and mouth or nose, unless you have just washed your hands
- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; use a tissue when possible, then dispose of the tissue promptly and carefully ('bag it and bin it')
- Encouraging the children in your club to follow the guidance above.
- Instructing staff to remain at home if they display any relevant symptoms, and sending staff home if they first display symptoms while at work.
Closing your club temporarily
If there comes a time when you have insufficient staff available to meet required ratios and to keep the children safe, you will have to consider temporarily closing your club. If this looks likely to occur you should contact your local Early Years Service, for further support and guidance.
You should draw up a list of who you will need to inform if you have to close the club at short notice, eg club staff, parents/carers, feeder schools, other users of shared premises, transport providers, etc.
If you close your club you will need to notify Ofsted.
Your local authority has to report the level of closures to the Government and it also needs to keep parents informed, so you should also notify your local childcare information service of any closures.