Holiday clubs and Covid-19

Update 1 July 2020: The DfE published the awaited guidance on protective measures for holiday clubs, including group sizes, on 1 July:
Protective measures for holiday or after school clubs during the coronavirus / covid-19 outbreak

Update 19 June: The DfE released a further statement to the effect that the expectation was that holiday clubs would be allowed to open, but that the earliest date this could happen was 4 July, and would depend on the scientific advice at the time; and that the guidance for providers on the required health protection measures would be released 'soon'.

We had a meeting with representatives from the DfE on 17 June 2020. At this meeting they made it clear that:

  • as things currently stand, no holiday clubs of any kind are allowed to open
  • they are working to produce a set of guidance that will set out how holiday clubs will be able to open this summer
  • although they hope to get this guidance out 'soon', in reality it is very unlikely that anything will be released before the next major government announcement about moving to the next stage of lockdown on 4 July.

At this stage they cannot give any indication of what measures will be expected, or what conditions settings must fulfill, before they are allowed to re-open. So it is likely that the first that providers will know about what requirments they need to meet will be on 4 July, just two weeks before many holiday clubs are expecting to open. We are extremely frustrated and disappointed with this stance.

The DfE is not making any distinction between Ofsted-registered clubs which are there to provide childcare for working parents, and unregistered clubs which typically run provision based around a particular activity, such as sports or drama. They want to ensure that the guidance (and 'the science') is applicable to every type of club before they release it. This seems to be one of the causes for the delay in publishing the guidance, together with the ongoing internal debate within government about what social distancing measures can be considered 'safe'.

It seems inexplicable to us that a club which is Ofsted-registered, and therefore subject to external oversight and accustomed to following strict regulations, cannot be issued with a series of conditions that it will need to meet in order to be able to open at the start of the summer holidays. (Obviously if external conditions change (eg a spike in new Covid-19 cases) then further re-opening of childcare settings might have to be postponed.) We have asked whether an indication of the guidelines could be released now, so that clubs could at least start to look into whether they would be able to meet them, but the representatives of the DfE were not able to agree to this suggestion.

In the absence of any such guidance many clubs are already taking the decision now that they won't be open over the summer. This will leave a huge number of working parents without any regulated childcare for their children. They will face the difficult choice between using unregulated childcare for their children, or leaving them unsupervised, or not returning to work.