Advice for schools and childcare settings who are providing care to children during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social distancing

Implementing social distancing in the childcare setting

Social distancing within education and childcare settings with very young children and those with some disabilities will be harder to maintain.

Staff should implement the measures outlined in the non-healthcare settings guidance, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for within their settings.

It is essential that a holistic approach is maintained in caring for children and that education and care providers are alert to the stress that many of the children that are attending the setting may be experiencing.

For vulnerable children difficult home situations may be exacerbated.

For children of key workers, there may be anxieties related to their parent’s welfare and health while at work.

This means that it is important where possible to ensure that children’s emotional needs are anticipated in considering what the requirements are for staffing.

This will also be an anxious time for many of the staff too and it is essential that their health and wellbeing is considered. There may be additional challenges helping these groups of children navigate this difficult time. 

For children and young people with the most complex additional support needs ensure that you involve lead professionals and parents to decide how best to continue supporting them. It is important to tailor the care situation to the child where possible.


  • Consider how you need to support staff who are working in your setting
  • Ensure that the facilities for staff allow for social distancing
  • Ensure that the staff attending are aware of the most up to date Covid-19 information on the NHS inform website.
  • Ensure that you have the right staff to support the physical and emotional needs of children and staff
  • Ensure staff to child ratios are tailored to the requirements due to social distancing (i.e. fewer children in a room) and changing pupil mix and support requirements

Implementing social distancing measures

Things to consider

Consider how you can implement social distancing in your setting

  • Evaluate what additional support you need to implement social distancing measures in your setting
  • Ensure class or group sizes reflect the numbers of staff available and are kept small enough to allow for social distancing
  • Ensure sufficient staff numbers to keep group sizes small
  • Ensure sufficient equipment available for each room/ group space
  • Discourage parents and carers from gathering outside the setting
  • Discourage unnecessary entry of parents and others to the setting
  • Consider how children travel and arrive at the education and childcare setting:
    • Consider how children arrive to facilitate for social distancing
    • Reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport
  • Consider how you structure the care environment to allow for social distancing:
    • Number of rooms and size of space
    • Desk or play equipment spacing
    • Toileting and handwashing facilities
    • Snack and lunch provision
    • Outdoor play space
  • Consider how you structure your learning:
    • Individual working
    • Group work using technology
    • Alternative approaches that allow for social distancing (for example during games and activities)
  • Consider the content of your teaching and support:
    • Tailor key messages and information to the children in your care
    • Careful and considered communication about risks and behaviours
    • Hygiene
    • Personal resilience
    • Mental health
    • Staying healthy
    • Staying fit
  • Consider how you structure the routine:
    • Staggered arrival and departure times
    • Stagger lunch times, break times and the movement of pupils around the setting to reduce large groups of children gathering
  • Enhanced cleaning routines (increased frequency)
  • Review catering provision (limit or avoid shared foods)

What staff can encourage parents to do

  • Inform parents and communities about the measures that you are taking and get their help to implement them
  • Talk to their children about coronavirus (COVID-19), social distancing and hand washing
  • Follow guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection
  • Do not gather at entrances or in playgrounds, and model social distancing so that their children learn good practice.
  • Consult the Parent Club website for useful information on how to cope with changes and how to protect themselves and others

Further informationEducation and childcare provision

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