Gavin Williamson

Early years guidance: No more bubbles from 19 July

Following statements in Parliament, yesterday by the Health Minister and Education Minister, early years settings will no longer be responsible for contact tracing or keeping children in small groups or bubbles from 19 July.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson revealed some new key messages in Parliament yesterday that further restrictions would be lifted from 19 July in educational settings:

  • This includes bubbles for all children under 18.
  • From 16 August, the legal requirement to self-isolate for contacts of a positive case will end for everyone aged under 18, and for adults who have been fully vaccinated.
  • From 16 August, early years children who are in close contact with someone who tests positive should only take a PCR test if a member of their household tests positive.
  • Protective measures will remain in place for the autumn term in all education settings including practicing good hygiene, ventilation, and regular testing until the end of September to strike a balance between relaxing restrictions and minimising further disruption to children’s education.
  • All school trips, drama, music and sporting activities will be able to resume in line with the relaxation of restrictions across society from 19 July.

The DfE’s existing EY guidance will still apply up until 19 July.

And here is the new guidance from stage 4 which is currently due to be from 19 July:

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “We welcome the relaxation of bubbles or small consistent groups from 19 July and from 16 August, the nursery sector will give a huge sigh of relief at being able to scrap the self-isolation policy for close contacts.

“Young children have suffered a lot of disruption over the past year or so and this means that they rely on nursery to be a place of normality to learn and develop through play.

“But ending the self-isolation rules for children at the same time as removing small groups would have really helped providers. Nurseries and providers of holiday clubs will have to carry on struggling with little or no financial support from the Government for most of the summer holidays. Extending the isolation rules beyond 19 July will create further challenges for providers.

“We will be scrutinising the new guidance from the Government in more detail and raising any issues with the DfE.”

Key changes for nurseries:

  • Settings won’t be responsible for contact tracing or keeping children in fixed groups/bubbles from 19 July onwards – it’s important to note that they may still be contacted by NHS Test and Trace post 19 July and asked to support with identifying ‘close contacts’. The definition of close contact is not due to change but educational settings are now not likely to be seen as the main place where ‘close contacts’ take place
  • From 16 August children under 18 will no longer have to self-isolate purely as a result of being a ‘close contact’ – only if they test positive
  • From 16 August adults who have been fully vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate if they are a close contact
  • The vast majority of the ‘Systems of Control’ will be removed as requirements from guidance.
  • The existing 12 ‘must do’ requirements are replaced by 4 areas of what settings ‘should do’ –
    • Ensure good hygiene for everyone
    • Maintain appropriate cleaning regimes, using standard products such as detergents
    • Keep occupied spaces well ventilated
    • Follow public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • Restrictions on visitors to the settings and the use of face coverings by adults will be lifted entirely from 19 July
  • Asymptomatic testing of staff is to continue until at least September when it will be reviewed
  • Settings must still report cases to Ofsted as a legal requirement
  • Settings are asked to prepare an ‘Outbreak Management Plan’ for what they would do if there was an outbreak in their setting o local area where they were advised to re-introduce some of the control measures that have been removed.

NDNA has put together a detailed comparison of the main changes between the pre-19 July guidance and the post-19 July guidance.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I am incredibly grateful to everyone working in education and childcare for their tireless work to make the best of what has been a very challenging situation.

“While the pandemic is not over, we are moving into a new phase of managing Covid, from strict rules and towards personal responsibility. The measures we will have after summer strike the right balance as we learn to live with the virus so children can get on with their lives and education in the best possible way.”

  • bubbles
  • childcare
  • Covid isolation
  • early years
  • Gavin Williamson
  • self-isolation
  • small goups
  • track and trace

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