Early Years Settings and COVID Exceptional Circumstances

COVID and Exceptional Circumstances Main Image

Early Years Settings and COVID Exceptional Circumstances

Nursery World has published a very thorough article concerning the Department of Education confirming that early years settings struggling with staff absences due to COVID can relax ratios in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Omicron Variant and Childcare

Ofsted reported a doubling of the Omicron cases being reported in the lead up to Christmas.

Nursery World understands that the DfE will be updating guidance to clarify that existing flexibilities can be used.’

The Department of Education (DfE) stated:

‘It remains a priority to continue providing face to face education and childcare, but we know that Covid-19 continues to put early years settings under significant pressure, particularly in relation to workforce absence. ‘

Government considers Covid-19 to be an exceptional circumstance in which the staff-to-child ratios set out in the EYFS can temporarily be changed.

The statement from the DfE goes on:

‘In some cases, providers may choose to respond to staff and child absences by temporarily mixing age groups of children who would otherwise be educated or cared for separately. Ratios should be guided by all relevant requirements and by the needs of individual children within the group.’

For the purposes of meeting EYFS ratio and qualification requirements, all staff educating or caring for a mixed age group of children can be considered “available to work directly with” all the children who have been grouped together.

‘We will update guidance to reflect this soon. In all circumstances, settings remain responsible for maintaining the quality of care, safety and security of children.’

Early Years Alliance

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, commented:

‘There is no doubt, however, that the safety and wellbeing of all children attending early years settings must always be a priority, and so it is critical that any providers who opt to use this flexibility do so with the utmost care and caution, with any temporary changes underpinned by robust risk assessments.’

He continues:

‘Years of poor pay, little support and even less recognition have led to a recruitment and retention crisis which has forced many settings to operate with much fewer staff that they otherwise might. Ultimately these issues must be addressed.’

When we have more news we’ll publish it on the Purple Dove blog.