COVID-19: EARLY YEARS UPDATE - 15 May

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Update for early years settings - 15 May

dan barton

Dear colleague,

Lots of information in the briefing today, so a short introduction.

Thank you – for everything. In spite of the huge pressure you are all under, in an environment characterised by rapidly changing positions and guidance, we’re doing a great job together.

Yours,

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills
Cumbria County Council


Guidance around providers reopening after June 1

As you will be aware, the DfE are asking nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June.

It is important to start by saying that there is no expectation that all settings in Cumbria will open on June 1. Rather that June 1 could be a starting point for some settings to begin to reopen, where it is deemed safe and reasonable to do so. We recognise the diversity of Cumbria’s education sector and that every setting is unique.

Our response to the closure of education providers across Cumbria on March 20 resulted in a ‘mixed economy’ of school hubs, standalone schools and early years settings working together to provide essential childcare for children of key workers and vulnerable children within the challenges of their individual settings and localities. We anticipate that we will see the development of a similar mixed economy as a response to the proposed reopening of education settings from June 1. Our approach is very much along the lines of the approach being taken by colleagues across the north and north west. 

To help facilitate, enable and support this response, our Early Years Team has collated all of the DfE guidance from the last few days into an optional toolkit of support materials:

to support you in the risk assessment process for your setting; this will help you to assess feasibility and timescales for reopening based on the DfE guidance and actions required. 

A very constructive meeting was held this week with the Early Years Reference group to discuss reopening and it is clear that Providers are adopting an extremely professional approach which considers fully the needs of children, families and their own team members. An Early Years Adviser will be in contact to discuss your situation and your support needs over the course of the next week.

We understand that this is an extremely challenging time for education leaders and planning is ongoing with Trade Union colleagues at a tactical and strategical level.

Other useful resources to support re-opening:

We would like to draw your attention to a very helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions that the Early Years Alliance have put together which can be found here.

Also, you may find it helpful to access this free webinar organised by Famly yesterday, which includes a talk from a Practitioner from Denmark who shares her nurseries experience of reopening.


Children attending more than one early years setting

We have received queries regarding the Local Authority’s position on children who normally attend more than one early years setting, and whether this is something that should continue to take place during the current pandemic. We have consulted with colleagues in Public Health and whilst attending more than one childcare provision is normally fully acceptable, at the present time the health and safety of children, families and staff is the most important consideration.

We therefore recommend that children only access one provider at the current time (on the understanding that the impact of this is risk assessed in the case of any children identified as being vulnerable). This is also within the spirit of the national guidance Implementing protective measures in education childcare settings which states that when settings are open, where possible:

  • Ensure groups are kept together throughout the day or subsequent days
  • Groups have the same staffing
  • Groups are in same rooms/classroom

Guidance for furloughed workers

Please find attached some guidance for furloughed workers in early years settings - Coronavirus (COVID-19): financial support for education, early years and children’s social care. This has been developed using the LGA guidance with input from our HR, Legal and Finance teams.  


Safety update on Tiger Eye Protector Product

You may have seen national media coverage in relation to an eye protection product called the Tiger Eye Protector Product and the removal of this product from the national supply chain of Covid-19 specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

If you have received this product, the Local Resilience Forum will start replacing your stocks of this product with the alternative this week. We have the details of all organisations who have received the Tiger product and will contact you directly to arrange this.


PPE guidance and protective measure for early years settings

The safety of staff, children and their families, is paramount when your setting is considering reopening or opening to more pupils on June 1. Our team has compiled some guidance on PPE and protective measures to support staff working in schools and childcare settings. The advice focuses on measures they can put in place to help limit risk of the virus spreading within their settings.

This guidance is based on advice from  our Public Health team and from the government guidance ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings’ issued on May 12 which can be found here. We recommend you read this advice in full before completing your risk assessment.

The DfE are producing further guidance on this next week, which we will share with you in due course. 


Letter for parents about digital devices for disadvantaged children

As you may be aware the Government has announced support for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people who do not currently have access to a digital device such as a laptop or tablet during the coronavirus outbreak.

Please find attached a draft letter which you can send to parents with children in  your settings offering an update on how these devices will be allocated and distributed.


Changes to SEND legislation update

Colleagues will be aware of recent government announcements regarding SEND legislation. This is to clarify the implications of these changes. 

The changes are:

  1. A change to the statutory duty to secure special educational provision. This is modified to a duty to use reasonable endeavours to do so.
  2. A change in adhering to the statutory timescale for assessments and plans. Where it is not reasonably practicable to meet that time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus, the specific time limit will not apply - process must be completed as soon as reasonably practicable.

These are the only changes: all other SEND laws remain the same.

In determining how to meet the new duty on securing provision the LA should consider:

  • the specific local circumstances, e.g. workforce capacity and skills and that of others whose input is needed; temporary closures of education settings; guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus;
  • the needs of and specific circumstances affecting the child or young person; and
  • the views of the child, young person and their parents over what provision might be appropriate.

In practice, what this means, is that settings need to continue to support children and young people by maintaining contact with them and identifying what provision they can make for them. The provision needs to be recorded in the form attached. This must be individual – one for each child or young person with an EHC plan

Annual reviews

The requirements remain the same:

  • Settings should endeavour to offer the opportunity for a review meeting to take place. EHC plan co-ordinators can assist with this. Annual review meetings will need to be held virtually and settings will have their preferred method for this but may ask the LA for advice and support if needed.
  • It is important that they continue to ensure that the child or young person is at the centre of the process and can engage with the process in a meaningful way.
  • Even if the family choose not to engage in a review meeting, the review should be completed by the professionals wherever possible.

Naming a placement

  • The expectation that early years settings, schools, and colleges have up to 15 days to respond to a proposal to name their institution in an EHC plan remains in place, and settings should be able to engage effectively in this aspect of the process.
  • Where the setting expects a possible delay in responding, it needs to contact the LA as soon as possible to discuss.

If you have any queries about the form please contact our SEND helpline on 03330150816 (open from 10am to 12 Monday to Friday).


Archive of early years bulletins on our website

Past editions of this Early Years bulletin are archived and available on the Education Tactical Co-ordination Group website:

https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/coronavirus/education.asp


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