Ofsted has announced that you no longer need to report COVID-19 positive cases to them. We are aware that this has placed a significant burden on settings and managers. However, we also know that many of you are still dealing with staff and children testing positive and this data collection was showing the impact COVID-19 is still having on the sector. We will continue to highlight the support you need, especially around the recruitment and retention crisis.
Living with COVID-19 Plan
The Government has now published a full version of the Living with COVID-19 plan. There’s a helpful summary available of the main changes and when they come into effect below.
The main difference will be the removal of the legal requirement to self-isolate if a person tests positive. However, it is important to note that the Prime Minister said: “Until 1 April, we will still advise you to stay at home if you test positive.” We know that this may cause some uncertainty for you, your parents and your staff and we understand that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will provide more guidance for people where they have tested positive.
At the same time, you may want to refer to your own sickness policies for children coming into nurseries as you would for any other illness. You may also want to share the guidance for parents and carers which has also been updated today to reflect the changes in guidance applying to schools and early years settings.
- The guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing removed
- Legal Requirement to self-isolate removed – however Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 full days
- Legal requirement for close contacts to self-isolate removed
- Legal obligation to notify employers of a positive test removed
- Self-isolation support payments will end
- Contact tracing will end
- The Covid-19 changes to SSP will end. SSP will no longer be payable from day 1 for people testing positive or self-isolating
- Free testing (both asymptomatic and for those with symptoms) will end in England
- The Government will remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessment
- Public health guidance will be updated, including on whether people should continue to stay at home if they test positive
- New guidance will replace the Working Safely guidance and set out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to minimise contact with other people
- The plan says: “Employers should continue to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.”
Early years Guidance
The main guidance Actions for Early Years and Childcare Providers has been updated to reflect the changes the Prime Minister has announced this week. The main change from Tuesday 21 February is that the advice for staff in early years settings to test twice a week has now been removed. Staff can still access tests via the public testing route if needed.
The guidance has also been updated to reflect that changes to self-isolation requirements will come in from Thursday 24 February. This includes an end to the legal requirement to self-isolate but there will be advice for people to stay at home if they have tested positive.
Local outbreaks may still be a possibility and so you are still advised to have an outbreak management plan. If advised by local public health officials you may need to re-instate extra testing and other measures that have previously been required in the pandemic, like face coverings in communal areas and keeping children in smaller groups.
From Monday 21 February you are no longer required to report positive COVID-19 cases in your settings to Ofsted. You also do not have to submit notifications for any cases that have happened in the last 14 days. That means if you are aware of a positive case from the previous two weeks that you have not yet reported, you don’t need to.
While there is still a duty to report cases of serious illnesses to Ofsted, it is highly unlikely that a COVID-19 case will reach this threshold set out in the Childcare: reporting children’s accidents and injuries guidance.
Ofsted’s deferral policy for inspections means that in the initial notification call with an inspector you can relay concerns about COVID-19 pressures and ask for a deferral. We have sought assurances from Ofsted that these requests are being treated sympathetically and we understand the majority were being accepted.
Reported COVID-19 notifications – highest numbers yet
COVID-19 notifications in early years settings hit a new high for the last two weeks in January reaching 5,189 and 4,559 for the week commencing 24th and 31st January respectively. While these figures will no longer be published once Ofsted has finished collecting reports from settings we are continuing to highlight the impact this period has had on your settings and the sustainability of the sector as well.