Holiday clubs - new guidance

The DfE published its long awaited guidance for holiday club providers on 1 July, and updated it on 10 July. This guidance applies to all types of out of school settings that will be open to children over the summer holidays, and includes settings such as sports-based clubs, tuition classes and Cubs and Scouts groups, as well as Ofsted-registered settings providing holiday childcare.
Download the guidance for holiday clubs

It confirms that holiday clubs can open to children of all ages from the date on which the state schools in their local area close for the summer holidays. This varies according to local authority but in many areas it means that holiday clubs can open from 20 July. All holiday clubs must meet the protective measures set out in the guidance. Most of these measures are sensible and achievable with some thought and planning. However there was one condition that caused a great deal of concern.

The protective measures contained in the first version of the guidance stated that children should be kept in small consistent groups of no more than 15, but then added that the children should be in the same group whenever they attend the setting:

"This means that at the first session children should be assigned to a particular class or group and should then stay in those consistent groups for future sessions."

This requirement for any one child to always be in the same group of children at every session is not practical for a club which provides holiday childcare throughout the summer holidays. We raised this issue with the DfE on 2 July, and they said that they have received feedback on this specific issue from a number of sources. They reviewed the guidance and published a statement on 9 July clarifying that providers should aim to keep children in the same groups "as far as possible" and then on 10 July published an updated version of the guidance document itself. The guidance now says that providers should "seek" to keep children in small consistent groups:

"...providers should seek to maintain small, consistent groups of no more than 15 children and at least one staff member."

But then goes on to acknowledge that this will be difficult to acheive in all settings and that therefore:

"providers must use their best judgement in creating and frequently reviewing groups in order to minimise the amount of ‘mixing’ (for example, the number of different people each child comes into contact with); and should also ensure they are keeping up-to-date records of the children attending their settings, including the specific groups and members of staff they have been assigned to."

This therefore gives providers a certain amount of flexibiility when assigning children to groups. so long as they are always aiming to keep the mixing of children to the minimum possible.

Update 9 July: In advance of publishing its updated guidance, the DfE issued an official statement to alleviate the concerns of providers about keeping children in fixed groups. (The crucial change is highlighted in bold.)

"Until the end of term in a local area, settings should follow the same protective measures as schools to limit different groups of children mixing. This means that if a setting opens before the end of the 2020 summer term, they should ensure they are only caring for children from the eligible groups (children in early years, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6) and priority groups (children of critical workers and vulnerable children). These settings should only be caring for children from one school or early years provider and should be working closely with the school or early years providers that their children attend, to ensure that, as far as possible, children are kept in the same small consistent groups that they are in throughout the day, and otherwise maintain social distance.

"From the end of term, the Department’s protective measures guidance outlines how these settings can minimise the risk to children, staff and parents who attend their settings by reducing the risk of infection and transmission of the virus. Providers should ensure, as far as it is possible, that they are keeping children and young people in small, consistent groups every time they attend. If possible, those attending these settings should practice social distancing in line with the government’s current guidance. To minimise the number of different children mixing, parents and carers are being encouraged to limit the number of settings their children attend as far as possible and attend local settings."

Clarification on early years children at holiday clubs

Just to add to the confusion for holiday club providers, the DfE published an update to the guidance for early years and childcare providers on 2 July.
This states (in para 2.1) that early years children will not need to be kept in small consistent groups (ie 'bubbles') from 20 July onwards. There was initially some uncertainty among holiday club providers who are on both the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register about whether this meant that they could do away with bubbles for the older children as well. We have double-checked with the DfE which has confirmed that the removal of bubbles only applies to the early years children. The removal of bubbles for this age group is due to the low risk of infection in this age group. For children in the older age groups, (from year 1 upwards) where the risk of infection and transmission is higher, you must follow the requirements for bubbles set out in the guidance for holiday clubs. The updated guidance for holiday clubs, published on 10 July, clarifies this point.

As soon as we have any further updates for holiday clubs, we will share them here.