FAQs: Reopening nurseries and early years settings - coronavirus / COVID-19

See our frequently asked questions for nursery businesses regarding reopening through the coronavirus / covid-19 outbreak. 

  • England
    • Do I need to reopen my setting in England?
    • If I have insufficient children right now wanting to return to my nursery, do I still have to open in June?
    • Can children's school start dates be delayed or deferred?
    • Will I still receive FEE funding if I do not reopen in June?
    • Does a member of staff who is clinically vulnerable/extremely clinically vulnerable have to shield?
    • Can I access the CJRS for staff who cannot return to work because they are clinically vulnerable/extremely clinically vulnerable?
    • Can early years providers take groups of children to outdoor public places, for example if there is not private outdoor space in the setting?
    • Bubbles
    • Vulnerable people
    • Reassuring parents
    • Wraparound care
    • Health and safety
    • Legionella bacteria
    • Fire safety
    • Air conditioning
  • Scotland 
    • Guidance
    • Route map
    • What does the route map mean for ELC? 
    • Re-registering as an outdoor setting
    • Notifying the Care Inspectorate
    • Letter from Maree Todd
    • Provider notice note
    • Childminding and fully outdoor provision
    • Physical distancing
    • Reopening for key worker families looking for critical childcare prior to 15 July 2020
    • Bubbles.
  • Wales
    • Do I need to reopen my setting in Wales?
    • Template letter
    • C-CAS scheme
    • Fire safety
    • The social care worker card
    • Supporting the team.
  • Out of school clubs


The Department for Education has now put all guidance for early years providers through the COVID-19 outbreak into one place - the guidance covers many aspects of reopening including safe working and protective measures, and the day to day running of settings.

Do I need to reopen my setting in England?
In his announcement on 28 May, the Prime Minister confirmed that nurseries and early years providers will be able to open from Monday 1 June. Talking about the five tests that the government had previously set out, he said that all had been met to his satisfaction for us to move to the next stage of relaxing the current lockdown restrictions.

This means that any currently open setting who are planning to accept more children or any closed setting who is ready and prepared to reopen can go ahead and do this from Monday 1 June.

As well as reopening early years settings and schools to some pupils, the Prime Minister announced that more businesses could reopen and people could meet in groups of no more than six, as long as they keep to social distancing. He has said the Government will monitor any movement in infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths.
He acknowledged that there may be local outbreaks of the disease and that where necessary this could lead to local steps to control this.

The DfE has updated its 'Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak guidance' to clarify the position on welcoming back all children to early years settings from 1 June.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extension until the end of October can support you with reopening. It will provide assurance that staff who might not be initially needed, due to lower take-up of childcare places, can be retained on the scheme for longer. 

The Department for Education has published its 'Planning Guide for early years and childcare settings' which sets out how settings might plan to reopen or accept more children from 1 June. The guidance is not statutory and providers are to “use their professional judgement, and choose to follow alternative approaches depending on their particular circumstances.”

If I have insufficient children right now wanting to return to my nursery, do I still have to open in June?
This date is just the date at which you can start to accept all children into early years settings, not just those from critical workers or vulnerable children. It is still for you to decide whether you are able to do this safely on that date. If you have concerns about opening – eg low demand, making adjustments to your setting, managing staff, the furlough scheme – you don’t have to and can open when you are ready. 

The extension of the furlough scheme should help you if you intend to delay reopening. However, I would suggest you continue to survey your parents to get a feel for occupancy levels. Ensure you know your breakeven point and when it will be viable for you to reopen. I think you should aim to reopen before government support ceases because after this time, things are likely to become extremely difficult financially.

Can children's school start dates be delayed or deferred?
We have had enquiries raised with us about delaying or deferring children’s school start dates either because children have lost out on time in early years settings before moving on or under circumstances where schools might not be able accommodate a full cohort of children. We have already raised this proposal with the Department for Education who have confirmed that delaying for one or two terms (depending on the child’s date of birth) is an option in all cases where a place has been offered. You may want to make parents aware of this option and they can talk to the school initially while local authorities should have their own processes for people to do this. Deferral is also an option for summer born children. We will continue to push these discussions so that for providers and parents who want to do this, there is the support in place to facilitate this.

Will I still receive FEE funding if I do not reopen in June?
The LA should not clawback your FEE funding if you remain closed but with the recent powers given to them where they can redirect funding from closed to open settings, it is a possibility. I think you should contact your LA ASAP and let them know that you have insufficient demand and therefore will remain closed for a longer period.

Let them know your plans during this time – you’ll be continuing to survey parents, planning/implementing new safety measures, communicating these to parents, undertaking comprehensive risk assessments, sharing these with parents and asking them to add to it if they wish, etc.

Ensure that the LA knows that you will continue to plan to reopen. Then you will need to ask them if your FEE funding will remain intact and explain how crucial it is to your viability even whilst closed.

Does a member of staff who is clinically vulnerable/extremely clinically vulnerable have to shield?
Clinically vulnerable – they should work from home if possible. If not possible then extra care should be taken to ensure social distancing in the work place. If a staff member wants to work in an environment where they may be working within 2m of people this should be risk assessed and steps taken to minimise those risks.

People with clinically vulnerable members in their household - If a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), which includes those who are pregnant, they can attend work. 

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable – staff should not attend the setting. They can still work from home if possible.
People with Clinically Extremely Vulnerable members in their household – they don’t have to shield so can go out to work if they are not able to work from home. They do need to follow social distancing so should only go to work if that can be observed. If this isn’t possible they shouldn’t be expected to return and should be supported to work from home where possible.
See the guidance on vulnerable people here.

Can I access the CJRS for staff who cannot return to work because they are clinically vulnerable/extremely clinically vulnerable?
Providers can still access the furlough scheme for those staff members in full to the end of July. See more information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on our dedicated webpage.

Can early years providers take groups of children to outdoor public places, for example if there is not private outdoor space in the setting?
Settings should maximise use of private outdoor space, while keeping small groups of children and staff away from other groups. Childminders and early years providers may take small groups of children to outdoor public spaces, for example parks, provided that a risk assessment demonstrates that they can stay 2m away from other people at all times. This should be restricted to small groups and should be done in line with wider government guidelines on the number of people who can meet in outdoor public places. Providers should not take larger groups of children to public outdoor spaces at one time.

The Department for Education's 'Planning Guide for early years and childcare settings' clarifies that early years providers should arrange children into small groups or ‘bubbles’ according to EYFS staff to child ratios and of no more than 16. We have been involved with providers in discussions with officials at DfE to make it clear that this better reflects the working reality for some early years providers than the groups of 15 suggested in schools. However, we know that for some of you you’ll want to keep groups smaller than this and the guide allows for that within EYFS ratios.

Reasuring parents
Parents may be nervous and so settings may see lower than usual occupancy levels to begin with. We reiterated the need for support to the sector in that case. We highlighted the importance of Government re-assurance to parents about children going back to nurseries and childcare settings, not just leaving this to the sector.

​Wraparound care
Subject to the scientific advice at the end of June, holiday and wraparound childcare provision will be allowed to open to all children, from 4 July, including provision which is not held on a school site. We have been told by the Department for Education that more guidance will be issued on how this can work and we’ll update you as soon as this is published.

See guidance on wraparound and holiday care here.

Vulnerable people
We have already picked up with the DfE the fact that the guide for schools was more explicit on staff and shielding than the early years document. However the information on “clinically vulnerable” and “clinically extremely vulnerable” people that sits behind these documents is the same for schools and early years. If you are concerned about members of staff you should consult your own HR and legal advice and members can access NDNA’s free legal helpline.

Health and safety
The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance for managing schools and other educational settings during the coronavirus outbreak adding information to prepare for reopening next month. There are increased risks relative to safety concerns around water hygiene and building safety.

Reopening guidance in England includes:
  • Cold water systems including drinking water
  • Domestic hot water services including water temperature to control legionella bacteria
  • Gas safety
  • Fire safety
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Security
  • Ventilation – where possible occupied rooms should have open windows.
Legionella bacteria
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health says there is an increased risk of waterborne pathogens such as Legionella bacteria being present as a consequence of buildings and water systems not being regularly used.  It advised to minimise this risk you may want to consider flushing through all taps, toilets and outlets as well as increasing the temperature of hot water outlets above 60 degrees for flushing through the pipes and outlets among other steps.

Air conditioning
The HSE has published guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak, noting that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low, so most types of air conditioning systems could be used as normal. However, if you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply. If you’re not sure about your air conditioning system you might want to speak to the engineers you use to maintain or service the system.

Access all our resources for opening your nursery


All childcare providers in Scotland will be able to reopen from 15 July 2020, if they wish to do so.

See more information on those settings that were allowed to reopen from 3 June.

Who can reopen currently?
Two types of settings have been identified as being able to open in the first wave: Childminders and outdoor nurseries. We have raised with the Scottish Government and the Care Inspectorate that many nurseries have outdoor spaces. However, the decision has been made that only those settings who are registered as entirely outdoor only settings. 

The Scottish Government published a news release which covered a number of measures for Phase 1 and this includes mention of childminding and fully outdoor childcare provision. You can view the news release here.

'Outdoor nurseries'
We understand that there are only a handful of these settings across Scotland and these settings have already been contacted. If your registration with Care Inspectorate is not defined as purely outdoor nursery, then you won’t be included in this first wave. The decision to open outdoor nurseries was made as they are classed as outdoor businesses, which is aligned with the opening of outdoor businesses in phase 1.

We have asked about settings reregistering as outdoor nurseries given their current space. However, we have been told that reregistration will only be able to happen in exceptional circumstance.

Notifying the Care Inspectorate
When it is the right time for your service to become operational, it is important that you contact the Care Inspectorate to let it know about your plans, so that they can change your status to ‘open’ on their system. You should complete the ‘Changes to service delivery due to coronavirus (COVID-19)’ e-form when you change your status. This includes when you open or close your service as well as any changes to how you operate, as detailed in the notification guidance. If you do not update your status, your service will be considered closed.

The Care Inspectorate is producing some frequently asked questions that should help you consider whether to open or extend your service. 

Support with reopening
The Scottish Government published guidance on 15 June to support settings in planning for the safe reopening of early learning and childcare (ELC) settings.

See 'Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis' here and The Scottish Government's 'Strategic framework for reopening ELC provision' here

Physical distancing guidance for schools has been published. You can access that guidance here.

It is not considered appropriate or desirable for children in ELC settings to physically distance and support for this is given in the guidance. Safe reopening of your setting will involve the following:

  • Enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices
  • Caring for children in small groups
  • Minimising contact between those groups
  • Maximising use of outdoor spaces and
  • Physical distancing between adults in the setting, including parents at drop off and pick up times

Reopening for key worker families looking for critical childcare prior to 15 July 2020​​
We have had questions raised by members over the past few weeks on if/how providers can reopen to deliver critical childcare if not working with the local authority. We have been working with the Scottish Government to clarify the position on this and it has now sent us the following statement which is its agreed position on this. 

This clarifies the approach that providers that wish to reopen to provide critical childcare in coming weeks should adopt as we move through this phase and work towards the wider reopening of the ELC sector.

“During Phase 1 and 2 there may be an increase in the number of key worker families looking for critical childcare provision due to other changes in their household circumstances. As was the case during the initial period of lockdown, settings (other than childminders and fully outdoor provision) should only open or reopen if required to provide critical childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children, preferably as part of a coordinated local authority plan. 

“However, you can choose to open out with partnership with your local authority, but only to provide critical childcare until the wider reopening of childcare is permitted. This decision is to be made by the childcare provider alone. An indicative date of 15 July has been announced for the reopening of remaining childcare services, subject to the criteria for moving into phase 3. 

“Any provider wishing to open must be aware of current key worker definitions but can apply their own decisions on key worker status, using their judgement and awareness of local issues to ensure that those most in need of critical childcare are prioritised and taking account of the public health guidance, that where children can be looked after at home they should be. 

“Providers opening out with partnership with their local authority should agree fee arrangements separately with parents. Critical childcare provision provided free by local authorities does not automatically transfer over to private providers if a family chooses to change setting, providers should discuss arrangements with the local authority. Critical childcare privately procured by parents has no relation to ELC funded hours entitlement. 

“Out of School Care providers registered with the Care Inspectorate can only provide critical childcare for key workers or vulnerable children either in partnership with their local authority or privately through direct arrangements with families. An indicative date of 15 July has been provided for wider reopening and will be subject to published guidance (due 3 July).”

The Scottish Government has assured us that it will be contacting local authorities to ensure that they are aware of this position also.  

We’re getting a lot of feedback about managing the bubbles outlined in the guidance and the impact of schools going back in August with full classes. We continue to raise this with the Scottish Government who are looking at the public health guidance which underpins this and we’ll keep you updated.


Do I need to reopen my setting in Wales?
First Minister Mark Drakeford MS announced changes to the lockdown regulations in Wales from Monday (22 June) to enable childcare providers to reopen alongside non-essential retail businesses “to support a return to work for more people.” This is a week earlier than expected and a week before schools are due to open to more children. Children are being asked to attend just one setting and calls for small, consistent groups. Read more here.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams has also announced a range of plans for schools including staggered starts, breaks and lunchtimes and smaller class sizes that is expected to mean only a third of children will be present at school at any one time. She also said that the summer holidays would start a week later on 27 July with an extra week added to the autumn half term.

Welsh Government Ministers have announced guidance for education settings and childcare providers to cover the wider reopening of settings.  The protective measures in childcare guidance sets out things providers will need to be looking at to support childcare settings to reopen and to operate safely. The guidance includes information  around risk assessments, social distancing in the context of early years settings, infection control dealing with cases and vulnerable people among others. 

Providers are asked to read and consider the guidance before reopening or expanding their provision.

Template letter
The guidance above includes information regarding limiting social contacts, stating: "Parents and settings will need to discuss these risks and consider how to manage them to reduce the spread of the virus. This will mean parents, schools and settings working together and in line with the guidance provided." We have developed a template letter you can use to send to schools, to support schools and early years settings working in parallel. Download the letter here.

C-CAS scheme
The Welsh Government has updated guidance on "Childcare for under five years old: coronavirus" for providers and parents. This states the Childcare Offer for Wales is currently closed to new entrants as the funding is being used to support the C-CAS scheme. This scheme will continue until 31 August 2020 and will fund childcare costs for pre-school children ((children aged from 0 to 5 years who do not have a school place) of keyworkers children and pre-school aged vulnerable children, with the scheme expected to close to new entrants during July. They recommend you contact your local Family Information Service as soon as possible if you are planning on re-opening your nursery and would like to access this scheme. 

Fire safety
There have been a number of fire services that have raised concerns regarding practice which may occur as a result of COVID-19 e.g. propping open fire doors to prevent staff from having to touch door handles and wedging doors open to increase ventilation. 

The North Wales fire service has developed a bulletin which outlines how the above practice would not be in-line with regulations:

"The wedging or pinning back of internal fire doors is unacceptable and must be avoided, as this practice would result in the premises not complying fully with the requirements of the Fire Safety Order 2005 – Articles 8 (General Fire Precautions) and 14 (Means of escape). The fire risk assessment must also be updated where buildings are used differently due to the COVID-19 situation, for example, reflecting within the fire risk assessment that only part of a building is used, or is occupied at different times from those prior to the pandemic."

The social care worker card 

Early years and childcare workers are eligible for this card if they are still working. This means any worker that:

  • Works in a Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW)-registered childcare or playwork setting which is still open
  • Usually works in a CIW registered childcare or playwork setting, but is now working in a local authority hub, as that setting is currently closed
  • Works as a Flying Start worker or with any other early intervention service for the local authority or charity/third sector organisation which means they have to travel outside of their home.

The card gives you the following benefits during this difficult time:

  • Priority into the supermarket
  • If you are worried about travelling to work in case you get stopped you can show this card as proof of travel.

See more information and view the frequently asked questions here.

Supporting the team

The Welsh Government has issued workplace guidance for employers and employees. The guidance outlines the following key principles which workplaces are asking all employers and employees to follow:

  • show care by acting with compassion and understanding
  • comply with laws designed to keep us all safe
  • involve everyone because safety is a shared endeavour
  • adapt work places and behaviours
  • and to communicate with clarity and consistency

There has also been a 'Key information document' developed to support businesses in operating safely and lawfully under the agreed guidance, The document outlines the two following areas with five points to work to.

  • Keeping Safe
    • Workforce Health
    • Test, Trace, Protect
    • Keeping legal
  • Restarting or Operating Your Business
    • Physical Distancing
    • Risk Assessment

Out of school clubs

We have raised the issue of out of school clubs with the Department for Education several times but the updated guidance they have issued this week has created more questions.

On the question of whether out of school clubs need to keep the same small groups or bubbles as they are in through the day we have been clear that this won’t work as there won’t be enough children to make these setting viable. Children can therefore attend more than one setting but providers will need to be aware of the risk and we recommend discussing this with schools as well. For example you may want to be notified of any positive cases in the groups that affect children at your setting. Providers will want to be aware that the guidance talks about minimising children attending multiple settings as much as possible.

“5.5 Can children go to two different settings?
Children should attend just one setting wherever possible and parents should be encouraged to minimise as far as possible the number of education and childcare settings their child attends. Childminding settings should consider how they can work with parents to agree how best to manage any necessary journeys, for example pick-ups and drop-offs at schools, to reduce the need for a provider to travel with groups of children.”

We have also seen guidance saying that out of school clubs that aren’t on school sites shouldn’t re-open. However we are aware of settings who have been open throughout for emergency childcare as well as settings who are part of wider childcare sites, like nurseries, who have gone through all the other preparations for re-opening. We have asked the DfE to review the guidance not to re-open and are awaiting their response. We are aware of some settings that have been open being told by the DfE helpline that they can stay open.

If you have a question about reopening and whether your setting should be covered by the blanket advice in non-school settings you might want to call the DfE’s Covid helpline on: 0800 046 8687.

Regarding holiday clubs, the Government says there is an "ambition" that all providers running holiday clubs and activities for children over the summer holiday will be able to open, "if the science allows". We are pushing the Department for Education for more information on this.

See all coronavirus support