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Guidance for Parents

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Updated 10 July 2020


This guidance is for parents and carers and covers changes to after-school clubs, holiday clubs, tuition, community activities and other out-of-school settings for children and young people over the age of 5 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.


These settings provide enriching activities that give children the opportunity to socialise with others outside their household and promote their wellbeing. We also recognise the importance of these settings in providing additional childcare options to parents and carers, particularly those with younger children, who may need to return to or continue to work during the school holidays.

Scientific advice suggests that there is a moderate to high degree of confidence that the susceptibility to clinical disease of younger children (up to age 11 to 13) is lower than for adults. However, it remains important that protective measures are put in place to help reduce the risk of transmission.


For older children, there is not enough evidence yet to determine whether susceptibility to disease is different to adults. Out-of-school settings may open to children and young people of all ages, and if you decide that your older child will attend an out-of-school setting you should still consider how to minimise any risk of infection that they may face. The risk can be minimised for children of all ages by ensuring that you are sending them to a provider that has coronavirus (COVID-19) protective measures in place, and taking practical steps to reduce the risk of your child coming in contact with someone who has the virus, such as encouraging your child to walk or cycle to the setting rather than taking public transport and discouraging them from mixing with different peer groups outside of the setting.


As these settings reopen, it is crucial that we are minimising the risk of transmission of the virus due to increased mixing between different groups of children. For this reason, you should consider sending your child to the same setting consistently.


We have released guidance for providers to help them put in place protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. While some providers will be Ofsted registered, not all will be, and there is no single responsible body with complete oversight of these settings, or the quality and safety of their provision. With this in mind, you will want to check with the provider that they have put in place protective measures to reduce the risk of infection before you send your child to a particular setting.


Questions and answers

Q1. What activities and out-of-school clubs can my child attend?

As the Prime Minister confirmed in his announcement on 23rd June, providers who run community activities, holiday clubs, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children will be able operate over the summer holiday with safety measures in place. Adjustments to the current measures for these providers are part of step 3 of the government’s recovery strategy (from 4th July). Children will be able to attend settings such as tuition and learning centres, extracurricular clubs (e.g. dance classes, gymnastics training, football coaching), uniformed youth organisations (e.g. scouts and guides), supplementary schools, private language schools and religious settings offering education (for example madrassahs, yeshivas, and Sunday schools), provided they are only operating in premises legally able to be open.

Before the end of the summer term, while state schools in your local area are open, providers will only be able to operate for children from the eligible and priority groups; these are vulnerable children, children of critical workers and select year groups (early years, reception, year 1 and year 6). However, during the summer holiday period these settings can open to all children, provided they put in place the appropriate protective measures.

As more settings reopen, it is important that we continue to put in place ways to minimise the transmission risks of the virus. This means that you should consider sending your child to the same setting consistently, in order to prevent your child from mixing with multiple different groups of children.

We are recommending that providers as far as possible keep children in small, consistent groups of no more than 15 children and one or two staff members. Group sizes may need to be smaller than 15 children depending on a number of factors such as age of the children in attendance, size of the premises or the type of activity. This means that when your child attends the first session they will be placed in a particular group or class of children and they should as far as possible remain in that group for future sessions.

You are also advised to choose settings that are local to you. Where possible, parents, carers and children are encouraged to walk or cycle to the setting or to use a private vehicle. If you are using a private vehicle to take your child to an activity, you should avoid using it to take other children from outside your household to the same activity even if they are in the same small, consistent group. You are also encouraged to avoid using public transport to get to activities, particularly during peak times.

Anyone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, such as a raised temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste, should not attend an out-of-school setting and should follow the COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.


Children who are clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Very few children are clinically extremely vulnerable or live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. The guidance for these groups is changing as the number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) declines in our communities. Read the latest guidance.

We are aware that some parents and carers may look to holiday clubs and out-of-school settings to offer respite childcare during the summer for children with special educational needs or with an education, health and care plan (EHCP). We have asked providers to ensure that making provision available and accessible to these children, as far as possible, remains a priority in these current circumstances.


Q2. The holiday club that my child attends has contacted me to say that they are reopening. What protective measures should I expect them to have in place?

Before the end of summer term, while schools are open in a provider’s local area, they should follow the same protective measures as schools to limit different groups of children mixing. This means that, if open before the end of term, they should ensure they are:

  • only caring for children from the year groups and priority groups who are able to attend school
  • only caring for children from one school or early years provider
  • working closely with the school or early years providers that their children attend, to ensure that, as far as possible, children are kept in the same small consistent groups that they are in throughout the day and otherwise maintain social distance.

For providers of out-of-school settings, like holiday or tuition clubs, that wish to operate over the summer holidays, the government has released protective measures guidance to help them put measures in place to reduce the risk of infection and transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). When state schools in the local area have closed for the summer term, children of all ages and from multiple schools may attend these settings.

The type of protective measures specific providers put in place will depend on their individual circumstances, such as the type of the activity they offer (for example whether children will be moving around rather than sitting at desks), the size and layout of their premises, and whether the activity is being held indoors or outdoors.


The key measures that every setting should have in place are:

  • minimising contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms do not attend their setting. This also applies if a member of their family has symptoms or if they have been advised by NHS Test & Trace as ‘a close contact’ to isolate at home
  • encouraging staff and children attending to clean their hands more often than usual, including before and after activities and before and after using toilet/washroom facilities
  • ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
  • cleaning frequently touched surfaces more often than usual using standard products, such as detergent or bleach
  • increased frequency of cleaning of toilets and washrooms
  • minimising contact and mixing between groups of children by altering the environment to allow for social distancing between children and keeping children in small consistent groups


Before sending your child to a setting, you will want to ask providers what measures have been put in place to keep children, staff members and parents or carers safe, and any practicalities you need to be aware of such as collection and drop-off times and whether your child should bring their own water bottle or lunch to the setting.


Q3. What should I do if my child is displaying coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms?

If your child becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste of smell (anosmia), they must stay at home and you should follow the COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection guidance.


If your child becomes unwell while at a setting, the provider should call you immediately to come and collect them. While your child is awaiting collection they will be kept separately from others by a distance of at least 2 metres, ideally in a well-ventilated room with appropriate adult supervision. When you collect your child you should take them straight home; do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk.

Your child should then self-isolate for 7 days and you should arrange a test for them as soon as possible to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19). You can do this by visiting NHS.UK or contact NHS 119 via telephone if you do not have internet access. You and other fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days.

If your child tests negative, they can usually return to the setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation subject to confirmation from local health protection professionals.

If your child tests negative but is unwell, they should not return to the setting until they are recovered.

If your child tests positive, NHS Test and Trace will speak directly to those that have been in contact with your child to offer advice. This advice may be that the rest of their class or group within the setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. Household members should always self-isolate at home.


Q4. Can I attend an out-of-school setting to supervise my child during a session?

Out-of-school settings providers may not be able to accommodate parents and carers being present during a session due to guidelines on group sizes and social distancing.

Providers should be able to clearly communicate what protective measures they have put in place to minimise the risk to parents, children and staff in their setting by reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.

Some protective measures might limit parent and carer attendance. These may include:

  • a limit of one parent attending the setting to drop off a child
  • allocated drop off and collection times and the process for doing so
  • protocols for minimising adult to adult contact, such as using physical distancing markers

It is good practice for providers to give parents and carers a parental consent form to complete when enrolling children in a setting so they have at least one emergency contact number for each child and are aware of any medical conditions or allergies. However, it is particularly important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that you ensure the provider has your most up-to-date contact details in case of an emergency, such as your child falling ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while attending the setting. You should also keep an accurate record of when and where your child attends out-of-school settings to help NHS Test and Trace identify people who may have been in contact with your child should they test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you are unable to supervise your child during a session, you will want to satisfy yourself that a provider has put protective measures in place to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, as well as having adequate health and safety and child protection procedures. We have included checklists to support you when choosing a setting for your child in Annex A, below.


Annex A: Choosing a suitable provider

The information below provides some examples of positive signs to look out for to help you make good choices when choosing an out-of-school setting for your child, but this is not an exhaustive list.

All providers:

  • health and safety has been considered, specifically coronavirus (COVID-19) protective measures. Providers with more than 5 staff members should have a written policy. Small and self-employed providers do not need to have a written policy but should be aware of the risks and how to reduce them
  • the environment appears safe (it is a well-maintained, clean building with a clear exit route in case of emergencies and a first aid kit available). The provider knows what to do in the event of a fire or emergency
  • rooms are well-ventilated, either by a ventilation unit or naturally (for example, open windows)
  • soap or hand sanitiser is readily available for staff, children and parents or carers to clean their hands. The setting may also have posters promoting frequent handwashing or the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
  • the setting is cleaned frequently (for example, cleaning checklists in toilets are visible and completed regularly)
  • use of toilets and changing rooms is managed to prevent overcrowding
  • children attending the setting are in small, consistent groups of no more than 15 children and one or two staff members
  • social distancing is promoted, through physical markers for instance
  • an appointed person is responsible for first aid
  • the provider has relevant training to deal with child protection and safeguarding issues (for example abuse and neglect)
  • a child protection policy can be given to parents on request. This should say how children can report concerns and how the provider will make parents aware of them
  • there is an appointed safeguarding lead
  • a parental consent form, which asks for medical information and emergency contact details, is needed before the child attends for the first time
  • a complaints process is in place

Providers with staff members:

  • staff members and volunteers are aware of the new safety measures the setting has introduced during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  • staff members and volunteers have relevant training to deal with child protection issues such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • staff and volunteers have completed relevant qualifications and checks (for example pre-employment references, DBS checks and so on)

Information for parents and carers about the closure of schools and other educational settings following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).


1. Closures of schools, childcare and other educational settings


  1. 1. Closures of schools, childcare and other educational settings
  2. 2. Exams
  3. 3. Free school meals
  4. 4. Vulnerable children
  5. 5. Critical workers
  6. 6. Resources and support

1.1 What age groups does this cover?

The changes cover children at registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders), primary and secondary schools and further education colleges. This is for both state-funded and independent schools.

1.2 Will it be mandatory for all schools, colleges and registered childcare providers to remain open in some form?

We are asking schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can.

We understand that some may be unable to do so especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. We will work with local areas to use neighbouring schools, colleges and childcare providers to continue to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

1.3 How long will schools and colleges be closed for?

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, schools, colleges and childcare providers will be closed to the majority of pupils until further notice.

1.4 Will this apply to independent schools and boarding schools?

Yes. We are asking independent schools and boarding schools to do the same as state schools and remain open for critical workers and vulnerable children.

1.5 Will registered childcare providers, schools and colleges be open over Easter holidays for holiday clubs and childcare?

Where possible, we would encourage childcare providers, schools and colleges to continue to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.

1.6 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child - can you guarantee that my child will attend their usual school or childcare provider?

We are expecting the majority of settings to stay open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children so they can continue to attend their usual provider, but we acknowledge this will be impossible for some - such as small rural schools.

Where a setting is unable to stay open, we will work with the local authority, regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to find an alternative setting for their pupils.

1.7 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child - how will my child get to school if the only school open is not nearby?

We will work closely with local authorities to put the necessary arrangements in place to support children.

1.8 I am a critical worker or have a vulnerable child but my children’s school has closed. What should I do?

Arrangements are being made in your local area to ensure that your child can still attend school. If your school hasn’t already informed you about those arrangements, please contact your local authority. They will be working with regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to make alternative arrangements. You can find out your local authority by entering your postcode.

1.9 What if I have to leave my children unattended?

Read the government advice on the law on leaving children unattended.

There is no law about when you can leave your child on their own but it is an offence to leave them alone if it places them at risk. As parents, you should use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them at home.

It is important to be aware that you can be prosecuted if you leave a child alone ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. If you are at all unsure, the NSPCC recommends that children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time, children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight and babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.

1.10 Does this affect universities and other higher education institutions?

Universities and other higher education providers should make their own judgements based on latest Public Health England guidance. Vice chancellors are well placed to make decisions about their own institution, and many have already moved all their teaching online. The government is supporting them with these decisions.

Advice continues to be that all student accommodation should remain open unless advised otherwise by Public Health England. Many universities provide homes to international students, estranged students and care leavers who might not have anywhere else to go.

The Department is working with the Home Office to avoid individuals and institutions being penalised if online provision inadvertently leads to non-compliance with Tier 4 visa rules.

1.11 Does this apply to special schools?

We recognise that children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and their parents and carers are facing numerous challenges as a result of coronavirus. Residential special schools and other special settings should be supported to remain open, wherever possible.

Special schools, colleges and local authorities are advised to make case by case basis assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils and students on an education, health and care (EHC) plan. For some, they will be safer in an education provision. For others, they will be safer at home. We trust leaders and parents to make these decisions and will support them as required.

The government acknowledges that in many cases, the insurance that early years providers have will not cover them for income lost during coronavirus (COVID-19) related closures.

That is one of the reasons why it was announced on 17 March that government would not claw back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This protects a significant proportion of early years providers’ income.

In addition, the government has set out a range of support for businesses to reduce the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on them. This includes a business rate holiday for all private childcare providers for one year from 1 April. Local authorities will be fully compensated for the cost of this. The government has also announced significant support for workers, which will help support private early years providers.

In light of these steps taken already, we are asking providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents.

2. Exams

2.1 What will happen to exams?

Primary assessments, including SATs, and exams including GCSEs, AS levels and A levels, will not go ahead this summer.

The exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer. Further information is available on the cancellation of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020.

3. Free school meals

3.1 Will children on free school meals still receive a meal or food voucher when schools close?

Yes. Headteachers can decide which of the available options will be best for families in their area. Schools can provide food on site, arrange deliveries or order a voucher to be given to the family. Contact your school to find out which option they are providing. More information on support for pupils eligible for free school meals is available.

4. Vulnerable children

4.1 Is my child counted as vulnerable?

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Children who have a social worker include children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority. We will work with schools, early years, FE providers and local authorities to help identify the children who most need support at this time.

We know that schools will also want to look to support other children who are vulnerable where they are able to do so.

4.2 Is it compulsory for parents of vulnerable children to accept their place offer?

There is an expectation that vulnerable children who have a social worker will attend provision, so long as they do not have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk than others. In circumstances where a parent does not want to bring their child to an education setting, and their child is considered vulnerable, the social worker and education provider should explore the reasons for this directly with the parent.

Where parents are concerned about the risk of the child contracting the virus, the education provider should talk through these anxieties with the parent following the advice set out by Public Health England.

Educational settings may also want to consider how to encourage children and young people to attend provision. Social workers will remain in contact with vulnerable children and families, including remotely if needed.

Those with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their education setting in consultation with the local authority and parents, to decide whether they need to continue to be offered a school/college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home.

5. Critical workers

5.1 Will I be counted as a critical worker?

Critical workers include NHS staff, police, farmers and food retail workers, who need to be able to go out to work.

Children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list should be considered for a school place.

If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

5.2 If only one parent or carer is a critical worker, can I send my children into school?

Children with at least one parent or carer who is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response can attend school if required.

However, many families with a parent or carer working in critical sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

5.3 I am a critical worker but I don’t want to send my child to school or to childcare, do I have to?

Children with a parent or carer who is listed on the government’s critical worker list should be considered for a school place. However, many parents working in these sectors will be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so.

6. Resources and support

6.1 What support will be available to parents to help them educate their children at home?

More information will follow about what DfE is doing to support parents. We are working with the BBC and others to provide resources for children to access while at home. For parents with children under 5 years old see hungrylittleminds.campaign.gov.uk.

6.2 There is too much pressure on broadband connections in my area - how can my child do online learning?

The government is having regular calls with the major fixed and mobile operators, and with Ofcom, to monitor the situation and ensure that any problems on the networks are rapidly addressed and rectified.

We fully understand the importance of having reliable internet connectivity at this time, so that people can work from home wherever possible and access critical public services online, including health information.

6.3 Where can I go to get support to help keep my child safe online?

There is a lot of support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:

  • Thinkyouknow (advice from the National Crime Agency to stay safe online)
  • Internet matters (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • Parent info (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • LGfL (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • Net-aware (support for parents and carers from the NSPCC)