Early Years Alliance updates

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Jan 10 2022

Following the publication of two contradictory updates from the Department for Education on when children who have tested positive for Covid-19 are able to return to their education setting following two negative lateral flow tests (one DfE update stated 'day 8', while the other stated 'day 7'), we have contacted the DfE to confirm which update is correct.

They have confirmed that children can return to their education setting on day 7, and that the reference to day 8 was an error – as such, we have updated the below information accordingly.***

Clarification on how self-isolation changes impact under-fives: 

In December, the government announced that individuals testing positive for Covid-19 can now end their self-isolation after seven days, rather than 10, if they receive negative lateral flow test results on days 6 and 7 of self-isolation.

The DfE has now confirmed that this advice also applies to children aged under five who have tested positive for Covid-19.

The first test must be taken no earlier than day 6 of the self-isolation period and tests must be taken 24 hours apart. If both these test results are negative, and the child does not have a high temperature, they may end their self-isolation after the second negative test result and return to their education setting from day 7.

Anyone who is unable or chooses not to take lateral flow tests will need to complete the full 10-day period of self-isolation.

Update on Ofsted inspection deferrals:

The DfE has advised that Ofsted will be encouraging early years settings, alongside schools and colleges, that are significantly impacted by Covid-related staff absences to ask for their inspection to be deferred (NB: We are currently seeking clarification on how this is expected to work in practice).

In addition, for a temporary period from the start of January, Ofsted will not ask school, college and early years leaders who are also Ofsted inspectors to undertake inspections.

​Sickness self-certification reminder:

Under new temporary government guidance, employees taking sick leave between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 only need to provide a doctor's note or other proof of sickness from a medical professional if they have been absent for more than 28 days (up from the normal 7 days). 

During this period, if employees are off work for 28 days or less, they do not need to give their employer a doctor's note, and can instead provide self-certification of sickness.

This guidance will be reviewed later this month. Further information is available here and here

Department for Education COVID-19 helpline

The Department for Education COVID-19 helpline and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advice service are available to answer any questions you have about COVID-19 relating to education and childcare settings and children’s social care.

The Department for Education COVID-19 helpline is open:
10am to 4pm – Sunday 2 January and Monday 3 January

From Tuesday 4 January:
8am to 6pm – Monday to Friday
10am to 6pm – Saturday and Sunday

Department for Education guidance

Our guidance to support education and childcare providers, local authorities and parents during the COVID-19 pandemic can be accessed using the links below:

·        Guidance for early years and childcare providers

·        Guidance for schools

·        Guidance for further and higher education providers

·        Guidance for local authority children’s services

·        Guidance for special schools and other specialist settings

·        Guidance for parents and carers





Government action following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes


  • Following the tragic death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the Government has launched both a national review and a local inspection into the circumstances leading up to the murder of Arthur.
  • The purpose of the review is to determine what improvements are needed by the agencies that came into contact with Arthur in the months before his death.
  • The Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) will be led jointly by Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the Care Quality Commission, and HM Inspectorate of Probation. It will investigate all the safeguarding agencies within the Solihull area to which Arthur was known, considering their effectiveness and advising on necessary improvements.
  • The independent national review will be led by the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and will identify the lessons learnt from Arthur’s case, and will disseminate findings from the inspection, to improve practice across the country.
  • Timelines for both the local inspection and national review are yet to be announced.



Children’s Commissioner for England to launch investigation over children missing from school


  • Further to the Attendance Alliance, the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza DBE has announced an inquiry into pupil absence. The Children’s Commissioner’s Office will audit a cross-section of ten local authorities to find best practice and find out the drivers for both high attendance and persistent absence.
  • The 10 local areas to be investigated are currently being identified, however, initial conversations have indicated that councils and local institutions would co-operate.
  • The investigation comes after Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman warns that school lockdowns risk more cases like Arthur Labinjo- Hughes and that there is a minority of children who are sadly safer in school than out of it.



NSPCC Learning has released a two-part podcast series exploring neglect and what can be done to support children and families experiencing it



Information on the changes to the self-isolation period for individuals who test positive for COVID-19

Since Wednesday 22 December, the 10 day self-isolation period for people who record a positive PCR test result for COVID-19 has been reduced to 7 days in most circumstances, unless you cannot test for any reason.

Individuals may now take LFD tests on day 6 and day 7 of their self-isolation period. Those who receive two negative test results are no longer required to complete 10 full days of self-isolation. The first test must be taken no earlier than day 6 of the self-isolation period and tests must be taken 24 hours apart. This also applies to children under 5, with LFD testing at parental or guardian discretion. If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result and return to your education setting from day 8.

Health and social care workers, including those working in education settings, should follow guidance for their sector on taking LFD tests on day 8, 9 and 10. For more information, visit COVID-19: management of staff and exposed patients or residents in health and social care settings.

Anyone who is unable to take LFD tests will need to complete the full 10 day period of self-isolation. Further information is available in the stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Daily testing for close contacts of COVID-19

People who are fully vaccinated, or children and young people aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months, identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, should take an LFD test every day for seven days and continue to attend their setting as normal, unless they have a positive test result or develop symptoms at any time.

Children under 5 are not being advised to take part in daily testing of close contacts. If a child under 5 is a contact of a confirmed case, they are not required to self-isolate and should not start daily testing. If they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 they should limit their contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and arrange to take a PCR test as soon as possible. They can continue to attend an education or childcare setting while waiting for the PCR result. If the test is positive, they should follow the stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

A reminder that the current requirements on remote education continue to remain in place

As students and pupils return to education and childcare settings following the holiday period, the current requirements for remote education continue to remain in place.

We recognise that the high rates of COVID-19 may cause difficulties with the availability of staff. Our shared priority is to keep education settings open and children and young people continuing face-to-face education. Where workforce issues arise, you may wish to use existing teaching, temporary and support staff more flexibly where required to ensure your setting remains open, whilst ensuring that you continue to have appropriate support in place for pupils with SEND. As pupils do not need to be kept in consistent groups, you may wish to consider combining classes. We are working with school leaders to share case studies on developing and adopting flexible learning approaches and will add to these over the coming days.

Where there is a need for remote education, live streaming is the preferred method for providing this wherever possible. There should be regular feedback and checking in with students and pupils.

Further advice and support is available through our remote education service and you can also access bespoke one-to-one support from the EdTech Demonstrator network.

Ofsted inspections due to take place in January

Ofsted inspection continues to play an important role in providing independent assurance as settings respond to the pandemic. It is right though that these arrangements are kept under review, and adjustments made where appropriate.

Ofsted has already confirmed that it will not be inspecting secondary schools during the first week of term in January, unless there are urgent concerns, as schools undertake on-site pupil testing.

In addition, for a temporary period from the start of January, Ofsted will not ask school, college and early years leaders, who are also Ofsted inspectors, to undertake inspections.

Ofsted will also encourage early years settings, schools and colleges that are significantly impacted by COVID-related staff absence to ask for their inspection to be deferred.

Ofsted inspections of children’s social care, local authority SEND services and joint targeted area inspections will continue, with deferrals taking place where appropriate. Ofsted’s regulatory work will also continue.

All of these measures will be kept under review.


Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on COVID-19 vaccination for at-risk 5 to 11 year olds, and booster doses for at-risk 12 to 15 year olds and all 16 to 17 year olds

On Wednesday 22 December, the government accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that a primary course of vaccination should be offered to children aged 5 to 11 years old who are in a clinical risk group, or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed. The NHS is working through updated guidance and will set out how this is going to be operationalised shortly.

In response to the threat from the Omicron variant, the JCVI advised that a Pfizer booster vaccine should be offered to:

·        children aged 12 to 15 years old who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of immunosuppressed individuals, and those who are severely immunosuppressed and have had a third primary dose

·        all young people aged 16 to 17 years old

Update to the definition of vulnerable children

For many children, continuing to have the protective factor of face-to-face education is vital. Throughout the pandemic, settings have continued to provide on-site places for this group of children. As has been the case since March 2020, there are three categories of children and young people who should benefit from on-site provision:

·        those with a social worker

·        those with an Education, Health and Care Plan

·        a group of children considered locally, including by settings and local authorities, to be ‘otherwise vulnerable’

We are updating our guidance on children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access school or education settings to include a broader definition of children classified as vulnerable. In addition to the above, this list now includes:

·        children known to children’s social care services in the past

·        children whose home circumstances might be particularly challenging because of domestic abuse, parental offending, adult mental health issues, and drug and alcohol addiction

The intention of providing a broader definition is to support local decision making about children who might face increased risk inside or outside the home if they are unable to attend their setting, or who could not reasonably continue to learn remotely. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and local assessment will be based on knowledge of family and community risk.

We have also written to all multi-agency safeguarding partnerships in England to ask them to work with wider partners including early years providers, schools and colleges to review their plans to support vulnerable children in their areas. We have asked for plans to ensure those who need the protective factor of face-to-face education provision are benefitting from it or that there are checks on children and young people’s wellbeing if they cannot be safely brought into their setting. We have also asked partnerships to check that vulnerable children and young people have re-engaged in their education following the holiday period.



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