Last reviewed 17 April 2020

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its COVID-19 early years guidance to include proposals for temporary measures to relax the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements during the coronavirus outbreak.

The proposals are intended to give early years providers flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand while ensuring children are kept safe.

Any proposed changes to the EYFS require emergency legislation and are subject to parliamentary approval, which is expected by the end of April. Until then, the current EYFS requirements continue to apply.

The proposals, subject to parliamentary agreement, are as follows.

  • Settings will not be required to meet the existing learning and development requirements during the COVID-19 outbreak but should use reasonable endeavours to do so.

  • Settings will not be required to undertake the progress check at age two during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Ratio requirements will remain as set out in the EYFS with the flexibility that already exists for exceptional circumstances. In addition, during the COVID-19 outbreak exceptions can be made to the qualification level that staff hold in order to be counted in the ratio requirements. Settings should use reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least half of staff (excluding the manager) hold at least a full and relevant Level 2 qualification to meet staff:child ratio requirements, but this will not be a legal requirement.

  • New entrants (levels 2 and 3) will not need to undertake a Paediatric First Aid course within their first three months in order to be counted in staff:child ratios during the COVID-19 period.

  • In maintained nursery schools and nursery classes in maintained schools caring for children aged three and over, settings should use their reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least one member of staff is a school teacher. Where this is not possible settings should follow requirements applicable where there is not someone with a suitable level 6 qualification working directly with the children (ie there must be at least one member of staff for every eight children, at least one member of staff who holds at least a full and relevant level 3 qualification and providers should use their reasonable endeavours to ensure that at least half of other staff hold at least a full and relevant level 2 qualification).

Further guidance is due to be published before the end of April, subject to parliamentary agreement of the relevant legislation. The latest guidance, Coronavirus (COVID-19): Early Years and Childcare Closures, is available at GOV.UK.