The DfE has clarified that children attending holiday clubs this summer will be able to mix with others, if it is not possible for them to stay in one consistent group or 'bubble', giving the go-ahead for more clubs to open.
After Nursery World magazine pushed for clarification, the DfE confirmed a change in the guidance that children should be kept in consistent groups 'as far as possible'.
The move will be a lifeline for many holiday club providers who were worried that without this caveat they would be unable to run their clubs this summer, because it would be financially unsustainable.
On Wednesday (1 July), the Department for Education published guidance for holiday club providers on what measures they would need to take in order to open their settings.
The long-awaited document had already been subject to much consternation within the sector, with many holiday club providers calling for ‘urgent clarification’ on key aspects that would determine whether or not they could open over the coming weeks.
The protective measures contained in the guidance stated that children should be kept in small consistent groups of no more than 15 and that the children should be in the same group whenever they attend the setting:
‘This means that at the first session children should be assigned to a particular class or group and should then stay in those consistent groups for future sessions.’
It goes on to say, ‘If you are unable to keep children in your setting in small consistent groups for future sessions, you should only operate your provision outside.’
But holiday club providers and the Out of School Alliance have argued that this effectively meant that bubbles would not be able to be mixed, and was unworkable, because unless they were prepared to incur the cost of providing care for a bubble that could, for example, start off with 15 children in week one and then diminish down to one child by week three, they would not be able to open.
The DfE has confirmed to Nursery World that the guidance will be updated to the following:
Providers offering summer holiday activities to children should ensure as far as it is possible that they are keeping children in the same small consistent groups for the duration of the summer or period in which they have signed up to the provision for. This is to ensure they are minimising the amount of mixing children are doing with other children and adults.
However it also adds:
If this is unachievable for providers, they should only be operating where they are able to offer their provision outside in line with the Government’s guidance on social distancing.
Nursery World has asked the DfE for more clarification on the second point.
The DfE spokesperson confirmed that the Government guidance would be 'updated in due course'.
Clare Freeman, director of the Out of School Alliance, said, ‘We welcome this amendment to the guidance allowing providers to have a certain amount of flexibility when booking children in - and this will make the difference for some providers on whether or not they can open this summer.’
Richard Bernstein, who runs Mini Minors day camp in North West London, had already made the decision to not run the residential arm of his business, XUK, last month, which would have offered places for 400 children per week for six weeks. He said, ‘This has decimated us and other childcare organisations and parents are crying down the phone to us, begging us to open our day camp for fear of being made redundant.’
Referring to the updated background information, he said, ‘It’s encouraging and sounds very positive. But it’s still intimating that one shouldn’t have children for more than one session. But if the camps are saying it’s not possible, it means the camps can't run. I am pleased it might mean that more camps can run but I suggest that Government should be clearer than that. I think they have gone half-way and they should go the full way.’
The guidance for parents on attending holiday clubs, launched at the same time, states that parents should ‘consider sending their child to the same setting consistently, rather than many different ones, to minimise the risk of mixing groups of children’.
Mr Bernstein added, ‘This is where it gets ridiculously complicated. Although parents are advised against going to multiple settings, there is no rule against them doing it which means they can go from one setting to another but they can only do one session of each one and they are all going to be mixing with different children regardless.’
Photo credit: Mini Minors Day Camp