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spacer image Early Years Essential - Edition 18 December 2020 spacer image
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left menu image spacer image spacer imageImportant information and updates during the Coronavirus pandemic
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Dear Colleagues,

We hope you have found the Early Years Essential helpful during this very challenging year. Thank you so much for all the work you have done to keep your provision open for your children and families. We wish you a happy and safe Christmas. We will be in touch in the New Year.



Improvement Partner - Early Years

Tel: 01908 254929

Mobile: 075 865 542 79


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In This Issue
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tag spacer image spacer imageImportant information and updates during the Coronavirus pandemic spacer image spacer image
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A message to schools and settings from Mac Heath, Director of Children's Services

Mac Heath, Director of Children's Services has a message for schools and educational settings in MK.  Please feel free to share with colleagues. (includes subtitles).



Local COVID-19 testing for pupils in secondary schools and colleges (before Christmas)

COVID-19 cases in Milton Keynes have been rising rapidly, with the fastest rates being seen among the 11-18 age group.

As a result, home PCR test kits have been offered this week to staff and students in local secondary schools and colleges.  The offer extends to their families too.

As many as 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms.  This means that they could be spreading the virus without realising it.  By offering tests this week (ahead of the national offer outlined below) we aim to identify as many positive cases as possible.  This will help to minimise the immediate risk of further transmission in the MK community.

Thank you to our secondary school colleagues who’ve been liaising with MKC and Public Health in order to roll this local offer out before Christmas.


National COVID-19 testing for schools and colleges (from January 2021)

On Tuesday, the government announced that, from January, teachers and pupils will have access to rapid testing to help keep schools and colleges open.

Starting with secondary schools (including all special schools and alternative provisions) the education workforce will be eligible for weekly on the spot tests.  The aim is to identify asymptomatic cases – which make up a third of all cases – limiting the spread of the virus.

This will be backed up by daily testing for staff who have been in close contact with a positive case.  This will eliminate the need for self-isolation; allowing staff to continue attending school or college.  Students and pupils will also be eligible for daily testing if they have been in close contact with a positive case.

For more information you can read the press notice and the detailed Q&A for parents.

Detailed operational guidance and training materials are already available to secondary schools and colleges.  This means that they can use the new testing capacity from the first week of the spring term.


Rapid testing in schools handbook

A handbook to help schools and colleges prepare for rapid testing from January is now available.  Additional guidance and training products will also be published later today and tomorrow on the website.

On Friday 18 December between 13:00 to 14:00 there will be a live event to provide more information on testing, which will include an opportunity to ask questions.

Following the event, a copy of the questions asked will be made available, together with the responses.


DfE guidance

Settings and schools

DfE COVID-19 helpline – Christmas opening hours

The DfE COVID-19 helpline will be operating over the Christmas break.

However, the helpline will close on the bank holidays, and have shortened opening hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Opening hours:

24 December – 8am to 4pm

25 to 28 December – Closed

29 to 30 December – 8am to 6pm

31 December – 9am to 4pm

1 January – Closed

2 to 3 January – 10am to 6pm

Until 24 December, the helpline opening hours are:

•          Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm

•          Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm

The DfE helpline number is 0800 046 8687

Please also see the information about our local Health Protection Team’s Christmas opening hours (below).


Hempsalls ‘Business Map’ FREE Training - National business support Zoom webinar for early years and childcare providers

Hempsalls have been awarded a contract by Department for Education and have organised a FREE business support webinar for early years and childcare providers.

Developed around a six-step Business Map process, the webinar will assist anyone thinking about necessary business decisions to support business change and sustainability, whether they are new to the role or an experienced manager. 

Booking details:   19 January 2021

9.45 to 12.30  


6.30 to 8.45


Safe working guidance

Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, which includes guidance about the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been updated.

The main changes from the previous guidance are:

•          updated guidance on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)

•          further guidance on residential settings


MK services

MKC Public Health Protection Team – Christmas opening hours

Locally, colleagues in Public Health will continue to be available to support you over the Christmas holidays.  They can be contacted by emailing

Christmas operating hours are:

24 December – 9am to 4pm

25 to 28 December – Closed

29 to 31 December – 8am to 6pm

1 January – 9am to 4pm

2 to 3 January - 9am to 4pm

Until 24 December, and from 4 January, operating hours are 8am – 5pm.

During the 6-day window, please remember to report any confirmed cases using the usual MKC online form.  If you request additional support on this, the team will be in touch asap.

Beyond the 6-day window, education staff do not need to play a role in contact tracing.


Settings and schools

Free wellbeing training and support

Feedback from attendees of the Wellbeing for Educational Return webinars was very positive.  Planning is now underway for the next stage of the project.  Based on the feedback of colleagues who attended the initial sessions, we’ll be focussing on anxiety and staff wellbeing.

We’ll share more information about this in the new year.

For those of you who missed the initial webinars, we’ll be re-delivering them on the following dates: 

Webinar 1: Whole school resiliency during the pandemic: a psychological approach

•          Tuesday 19 January (4.00pm - 5.30pm)

Webinar 2: An individualised approach focusing on bereavement and loss

•          Thursday 4 February (4.00pm - 5.30pm)

You can book places via MKPDC online using the keywords ‘wellbeing for education’.


Useful info

MKC covid19forschools webpages

We’re glad that our webpages continue to be helpful.  Please remember that they contain more information than we can include here.

For weekly video updates from Council Leader Pete Marland, plus weekly data slides, please visit our Covid Outbreak Control page.


MKC contacts

Please contact us if you would like any additional colleagues to receive copies of this regular update.

For general schools queries: Sufficiency and Access Team 01908 253338 or email:

EY Enquiries:  01908 254071 or 01908 254509 or email:

Safeguarding: 01908 253169 or 01908 253170

SEND Team enquires, support, advice and information 01908 657 825 or email:

Early Education Funding: 01908 254522


Please continue to forward this newsletter to relevant colleagues.  You can also contact the Early Years Enquiries if you wish to add any colleagues.

By working together and keeping each other well informed, we can reduce anxiety and workload across the MK education system.


Thank you

Belinda Woodcock

Improvement Partner – Early Years


We want to ensure that this newsletter reaches the correct individuals.  Please email   if you would to subscribe or unsubscribe.

EYE is a quick way of accessing both local and national news. It is published regularly as early years updates become available and is part of the core offer to schools and providers.

Disclaimer: Milton Keynes council accepts no responsibility for the actual content of any materials suggested as information sources in this publication, whether these are in the form of printed publications or on a website. Their use should not be interpreted as an endorsement of particular companies or their products.

The websites referred to in these materials existed at the time of going to print. Please check all website references carefully to see if they have changed and substitute other references where appropriate. Also, check all signposted training (whether MKC or independent) meets the needs of your setting.

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