Under the new government rules for the second lockdown, it seems baby and toddler groups will have different rules from the last lockdown in the spring. Especially as other rules, such as schools closing for lockdown, are different this time as well.
During the last lockdown, which saw the ‘stay at home’ order in place for months, many nurseries, child play groups and baby and toddler groups were forced to close for the whole duration of lockdown. This put many at risk of not being able to open again due to financial pressures.
This time around however, the government have put provisions in place to make sure that parents can continue their working day, childcare businesses can continue to function and babies and toddlers are looked after.
Are baby and toddler groups allowed to continue in lockdown?
According to the Early Years Alliance, the government are yet to give a clear answer to this question, but there is hope that baby and toddler groups will be allowed to continue this time: “The government has not yet provided confirmation on whether baby and toddler groups, children’s centres or creches are able to continue operating as of Thursday – we are chasing clarity on this as a matter of urgency.”
However, the government have said that early years providers – including childminders – are allowed to continue working as of Thursday November 5. Childcare provided by schools outside of normal school hours, such as after-school clubs and breakfast clubs – known as ‘wraparound childcare’ – is also allowed to continue throughout November under the new lockdown measures.
The government state that this form of childcare should only be used by parents of school-aged children “where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work, or for the purposes of respite care”. This doesn’t apply to parents and carers of younger children in early years education.
As clarified by the government, parents can form a childcare-specific support bubble with another household – but only where the child is under the age of 13 years old. Other households might also be able to form a regular support bubble, where single adult households can form a link with another household for the purposes of childcare but also for other social purposes.
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 unfortunately closed during the second lockdown throughout November in compliance with the government’s new guidelines.
This is likely to be because baby classes such as these focus on the social, cognitive and physical development of little ones – sometimes with parents and carers in attendance too. For this reason, they are not explicitly considered ‘childcare services’.
Gymboree Play & Music, which has centres throughout London and in Warwick and Leamington Spa, Bristol, St Albans and Solihull, has confirmed that they will be closing for the lockdown. A statement on their website reads, “Further to Boris’s latest announcement it’s with a heavy heart we must once again temporarily close our doors in England. Having you and your little ones return to our classes has been truly wonderful and we already can’t wait to welcome you back soon.”
Other baby classes, such as anti-natal classes that help parents prepare for childbirth, went online during the first lockdown and it’s thought that it will continue for this one. Due to the risk of coronavirus during pregnancy, many of these classes haven’t taken place in person for almost 8 months.