With so much of children’s early lives changed by the pandemic, many young families are hoping that baby and toddler groups are allowed to continue in lockdown.
During the latest lockdown at the start of this year, many children’s groups that didn’t classify as nurseries and/or childminders were temporarily closed. Baby and toddler groups were one of these, as they often require the parent or carer to stay with the child, so they didn’t meet the requirements for childcare.
Now we’re on the government’s roadmap out of lockdown though, things have changed.
Are baby and toddler groups allowed to continue in lockdown?
Baby and toddler groups of up to 15 are allowed to gather outdoors, thanks to the change of rules on March 29. Baby and toddler groups may take place indoors from April 12, with a limit of 15 attendees.
In both cases, children under five years of age and the group leader don’t count towards the attendee limit.
The Early Years Alliance, who are the largest early years membership organisation in England, have reached out to the government for more clarification on what will and won’t be allowed. They have said, “We know many providers are concerned about the new rules on singing for these groups, which currently prohibit parents from joining in. We will be raising this with the DfE [Department of Education], including asking for the scientific evidence behind this decision, as a matter of urgency this week.”
Other early years settings and wraparound childcare like childminders and nurseries can stay open to all children, where it’s needed to help parents and carers go to work, attend educational settings or seek medical help.
Any social mixing outside a household or support bubble indoors is still banned under the regulations until May 17, however, when two households or a group of six will be able to mix for social reasons inside.
Are baby classes allowed during the second lockdown?
Baby classes, such as those gymboree-style classes that include sensory play, music sessions or art sessions, are allowed from April 12 onwards.
Gymboree Play & Music, which has centres throughout London and in Warwick and Leamington Spa, Bristol, St Albans and Solihull, has confirmed that they are opening from April 12 under the new guidance issued recently. A statement on their website reads, “So if everything goes to plan we should be re-opening our doors in England on 12th April – fingers crossed! Hopefully our centres in Scotland should be able to open around the same time, but no specific dates have been published yet.”
Other baby classes, such as anti-natal classes that help parents prepare for childbirth, went online mostly during the first lockdown due to the risk of coronavirus during pregnancy. Many of these classes resumed in person in January though, as they fell within the ‘Support Group’ category of essential reasons for leaving home.
Baby and toddler groups were closed during the third lockdown because essentially, they focus on the social, cognitive and physical development of children and to help with this, parents and carers are often in attendance too. This means that they’re not explicitly considered ‘childcare services’ and there was too much inter-household mixing, with potential for the virus to spread while cases were at their highest.