This article was published October 2021.
In March 2020, the UK went into its first lockdown. Nurseries across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland went into various states of closure, and childcare became difficult for many parents. It was unclear what we could do to keep children and childcare staff safe from the virus…
But that was 20 months ago! We have learnt so much since then, and at Koru Kids, we have created steps that can be added to any childminder covid policy. Childminders who register with us will have a Koru Kids covid policy in place, but if you are going it alone, it can be tricky.
We know you want to keep children in your childminder setting safe, but also keep it open so you don’t lose your income. Here’s what you might want to mention in your childminder covid policy.
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Wash your hands
You have probably heard it so much that you are mumbling the words in your sleep, but it doesn’t mean you should stop. Childminders, and any adults visiting the setting (parents picking up children or going on a tour of the home nursery) need to wash their hands often and well.
Keep hand sanitiser by the door (but out of children’s reach!) so parents can sanitise when they drop off and pick up. Take extra care to wash your own hands before you cook food. Wash them more often than you normally would. There are many great tips on how to prepare food safely as a childminder—and they apply both during the coronavirus pandemic, and in non-COVID times.
Although it’s no longer mandatory in many settings in the UK, face coverings are a good idea. To stay safe, any parents or Koru Kids staff members that visit your setting should still wear face coverings to protect you and the children there. That also goes for other adults that need to enter your setting, such as contractors. If you feel worried about the children in your setting, make sure you include face coverings as pick up and drop off in your childminder covid policy.
You, your family, assistants that may be working with you, and the children you look after, do not need to wear face coverings. But it’s good if you have some spare, disposable face masks around. You can place them near the door, and politely remind parents to put them on if they aren’t wearing any. Do remember that many people are exempt from wearing masks for health reasons.
Cleaning and disinfecting
You always want to keep toys and surfaces in your home nursery clean. But now you will be going the extra mile to disinfect, wipe down, and wash just about everything. Normally, soft, cuddly toys are great to have in your setting. For now, it might be better to put those away, and replace them with rubber or wooden toys that can be disinfected easily.
If you are a childminder registered with Koru Kids, remember what you were taught during your training about safely cleaning toys and surfaces in your home. Put away or discard anything you can’t clean properly (like sand or playdough, for instance).
COVID-19 policies and emergency details
Remember to keep your own policies up to date. And save parent’s phone numbers, so you can reach them easily if you suspect COVID-19 in your home nursery. The faster you contact everyone and let them know, the faster you help to stop the spread, and keep all children in your setting safe.
Keep policies at hand, and let parents know what steps you have taken to prevent the spread in your nursery. You can print signs to encourage face coverings on the door. And parents should always let you know if they suspect a COVID-19 case in their household, too.
Staggered pick ups
If at all possible, create a ‘staggered’ pick up and drop off schedule. This way, parents won’t all crowd your hallway at once. Their children will still play close together in your home, but cutting out the added risk of spread from parent to parent also helps. It might be nice for them to say hello and goodbye on their own, too.
If at all possible, ask parents to drop off and pick up by the door, or outside. The less time parents spend inside your setting, the less risk of them spreading any nasty bugs to the children in your care.
A well ventilated space is a space with lower risk of COVID-19 spread. Since we’re big on the outdoors, just spending lots of time outside with children is a great way to reduce the risk. When indoors, try to open windows frequently when the weather allows. Fresh air is always a good thing, even in non-covid times.
Cases among the children in your care
If a child has any of these symptoms, they shouldn’t attend your setting until they have had a PCR test with a negative result. Your setting can remain open while you wait for results, but you probably want to do a few extra rapid lateral flow tests yourself while you wait.
Remember that teething, or regular childhood vaccinations could cause fever-like symptoms. So unless there is a good reason to suspect COVID-19, there is no need to take immediate action. Families with negative tests can return right away. If they have a positive test, the whole family might have to self-isolate in accordance with government regulations, and you have to notify all other families in your setting too so they can test themselves. But double vaccinated adults, or anyone under 18, would not need to self-isolate unless they developed symptoms.
A family that has to keep their child home from your setting because the child is ill would still pay for their normal hours. Just remember to make that really clear in your childminder covid policy. It’s not an argument you want to have, and it can come as a nasty surprise to a parent.
COVID-19 cases in your own household
If you or any member of your own household have COVID-19 symptoms, you have to close your setting until you have all done PCR tests. If the test results are negative, you can open up straight away. If any are positive, you have to self-isolate and keep your setting closed for 10 days from symptom onset/positive test.
Notify all families in your setting right away if you get a positive result, so they can take action by testing and self-isolating as necessary according to the NHS Test and Trace app. Then, self-isolate yourself for the recommended period of time, before you reopen your home nursery. If you are working with Koru Kids, contact us as you can so we can try to help your families organise alternative childcare with one of our nannies.
You don’t need to close your home nursery if there is a positive case amongst the children in your care, as long as you—and the rest of your own household—remain symptom-free and have negative test results. But if you are not vaccinated and have had a close contact with a positive case, you would need to self-isolate for 10 days and close your setting during that time. When you close your setting due to illness, you are not able to charge parents. You could come up with other arrangements and include those in your childminder covid policy for closure. Just make sure parents are completely aware of the terms, if you still charge during closure.
Does a childminder have to be fully vaccinated?
Although it is a free choice, a fully vaccinated childminder runs a lower risk of infecting the children in their care with COVID-19. They’re also less likely to spread the virus to parents, and the rest of the community. If your health and situation make it possible, please get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
You’ll also be less likely to have to close your home nursery because of an outbreak. If there are positive cases, but you are fully vaccinated and not testing positive, you won’t have to self-isolate. This means you are more likely to be able to keep your home nursery open for business.
Stay up-to-date with government guidance
Things have changed often during this pandemic. They could change the day after this article goes up! If you are a Koru Kids Early Educator, you don’t have to worry; we make sure all your policies stay up to date. That’s our job. You don’t have to spend your time reading this—go put your feet up!
But if you are independent, keep a close eye on changes in government guidance for early years’ childcare providers during COVID-19. Right now, you determine the rules for your home nursery based on local regulations.
This also means that Ofsted-registered childminders are responsible for keeping their COVID-19 policy and all other childminder policies up to date. Current guidance from the Department for Education, for Ofsted-registered childminders can be found here. It’s also good to read the government’s contingency framework for education and childcare settings. It answers any and all questions about who needs to do what, when, and how.
How can we help?
If you are a Koru Kids Early Educator, you’re in luck. We’ve already sorted a childminder covid policy for you. And compared to nurseries and primary schools, you will have such a small group of children to look after. Fewer children to add their germs to the ‘soup’, fewer outbreaks—and that goes for other colds and flus as well as the nasty norovirus! It’s harder to keep any outbreak under control when you have a large nursery group. By keeping the groups small, you are keeping children safer, and keeping the spread down.
According to the government’s contingency framework, children under 18 won’t have to self-isolate unless they test positive themselves. So there’s nothing stopping children who are well from attending your setting like normal. The same goes for double-vaccinated adults.
You will also have control over your own setting, compared to someone working in a nursery. You can keep it hygienic, and support parents and children in acting safely. You’ll spend lots of time outdoors, which also helps. There are so many ways to keep the spread down, and keep your home nursery open.
Keep calm—and reach out
Remember that your childminder covid policy is yours, and that you decide what goes in it and what stays out. (Except, of course, for any legal requirements from your local authority, the government, or any Ofsted-registered childminding agency you might be working with.) We want this pandemic to be over as much as you do. And we are aware of the immense stress and strain it has put on health-care workers, teachers, and childcare providers.
And if you are a Koru Kids childminder feeling worried or confused—just reach out. We will do everything we can to find the answers you need. This way, you can keep children safe, and keep your home nursery up and running.
The contents of this article do not necessarily reflect the contents of our own covid policy for our Early Educators. Our policies are constantly being updated and amended, so please bear that in mind when reading this article.
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